Ashwaubenon to settle lawsuit of two former officers
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – After meeting in closed session late last month, the village board agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by two former public safety officers who alleged they did not receive their full retirement payout, Village Manager Joel Gregozeski said.
He said the board agreed to settle the case filed on behalf of Luke Pasterski and Tom Rolling for $85,000, in addition to providing revised vacation and unused sick time payouts for Neil Brown, Jody Crocker, Don Riha and Terry Rottier, totaling $3,713.
Attorneys with the Hawks Quindel law firm, which represents the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association (APSOA), filed the suit in Brown County of behalf of Rolling, who was a village public safety officer from June 1992 to January 2020, and Pasterski, who was an officer from February 1999 to April 2019.
Rolling, who took over in the summer of 2019 as the department’s interim chief of police operations following Eric Dunning’s retirement, had been a supervisor since 2008 and also worked as a lieutenant and a commander after being a union employee from 1992 to 2008 subject to the APSOA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The lawsuit alleged Rolling earned $103,904 upon his retirement for sick time, vacation and compensatory time, but the village paid him $90,178.
The difference of $13,725 between what Rolling claimed and what was paid is based on the village using an hourly rate of $36.92, instead of $51.83, to calculate the 24-hour sick time with all the other categories of retirement payout based on the higher rate, the lawsuit stated.
According to the lawsuit, Rolling relied on the Village of Ashwaubenon’s employee handbook, the CBAs in force over time and the village’s past practice of paying out accrued, vested sick leave, accrued vacation and compensatory time to retiring employees at their regular hourly rate of pay.
Rolling joined the lawsuit with Pasterski, who retired from the public safety department and then became a battalion chief for De Pere Fire Rescue.
Pasterski was a union employee between 1999 and 2007 before being a department lieutenant from January 2007 until his retirement in April 2019.
The lawsuit also alleged Pasterski didn’t receive his full retirement payout.
According to the lawsuit, Pasterski received a retirement payout of $61,506 when he claimed his payout should have been $83,270.
The difference of $21,764 between what Pasterski claimed and was paid was based on the village using an hourly rate of $30.49, instead of $42.80, to calculate the 24-hour sick time, vacation accrual and 2019 vacation with only compensatory time based on the higher rate, the lawsuit stated.
The board’s action agreeing to the settlement comes more than four months after an arbitrator from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) ruled in the APSOA’s favor in a grievance against the village after it changed the hourly rate used to pay out accrued retirement benefits to Shawn Wright, who retired as a public safety officer in 2019.
The arbitrator’s ruling also found the village violated the collective bargaining agreement with the union by changing the hourly rate paid to officers who had not used all their sick time in 2019 and therefore earned additional hours.
The APSOA blamed the change in the payout calculations without any bargaining or discussions with the association on former Village Manager Allison Swanson, who was hired in 2011 and resigned in July 2020, five months after the union announced a vote of no confidence in her.