By Bob Uphues
More than a week after all three members of the Brookfield Fire and Police Commission abruptly resigned, Brookfield's village president and village manager both say they have no idea what precipitated the exodus and disputed claims that problems between commission and village hall went unaddressed.
Meanwhile, Village Manager Keith Sbiral has demanded a written apology from the former Fire and Police Commission members, and he accused the commission of holding at least one meeting recently that violated the Open Meetings Act, failing to properly approve meeting minutes, refusing to respond to inquiries from outside agencies and failing to produce an annual report for the past three years.
Sbiral dismissed the allegation made by former Fire and Police Commission Chairwoman Sharon Skweres that commissioners felt disrespected by village officials and Sbiral in particular.
"I continue to believe that when adults have conflict, it is far more productive to communicate and determine what is causing the conflict," Sbiral wrote in an email in response to questions from the Landmark. "This never happened. In fact, before a Sunday afternoon phone call that there was a mass resignation, my experience with Sharon was pleasantries by the copy machine."
Sbiral said he also had little to no communication with the commission's other two former members, Alan Dorobiala and Thomas Hagle.
"I have absolutely no interaction with this commission," Sbiral stated. "If they have concerns, communication is certainly a two-way street. To my knowledge, no requests have been made by the commission to village management or the village president. I can't solve problems I don't know exist."
Ketchmark said that he believed some of the complaints aired by Skweres in the wake of her resignation, such as the commission's lack of office space inside village hall, had been settled years ago.
"The more I think about it, I still don't understand it," said Ketchmark in a phone interview. "Sharon brings us issues from when [former village manager] Rick [Ginex] was here. I thought we'd all moved on from that. Nothing new has come my way."
The Landmark combed through hundreds of pages of emails between members of the commission and village officials, obtained through a Freedom of Information request. The vast majority had to do with routine commission matters, and Skweres is the person with whom village officials dealt almost exclusively.
And while, she may not have said anything to Ketchmark or Sbiral – her main contacts at village hall were HR Director Michelle Robbins and Deputy Clerk Theresa Coady – Skweres would drop in the occasional complaint.
In a Feb. 4, 2016 email to Robbins, Skweres referred to the commission as the "village's stepchild" because the village had failed to reappoint members on a timely basis. For example, Hagle continued to serve on the commission about a year after his term in 2016 had expired and he was reappointed in early 2017.
In April 2016, Skweres referred to the commission as being "orphaned" after it lost temporary quarters in an office in village hall. She used the term again in a January 2017 email to Robbins, lamenting that members of the commission were "left out of everything."
"It's even hard to get acknowledgement and even a thank you for all us appointees give to the village," Skweres wrote.
Incensed at accusations that he was part of the reason for the resignations, Sbiral sent an indignant email to Skweres on Aug. 1, just hours after the Landmark published an article about the situation.
In the email, which was obtained by the Landmark, Sbiral demands an apology from Skweres and the other commission members, claiming she "defamed" his character and professionalism.
"For you to publicly question me in something I had absolutely nothing to do with is completely unprofessional," Sbiral wrote to Skweres. "I simply demand a written apology from you and the former commissioner members. If I don't receive it, I will be forced to take action on these public comments."
He noted in the email that when contacted by the Landmark, he "didn't point out illegal meetings, unnoticed meetings, phone meetings, lack of statutory [Open Meetings Act] training, constantly fighting with the previous village manager, complete lack of paperwork, disrespect to the village HR department and general disregard for the requirements of the psychological exam importance and process."
When asked to explain what he meant about the commission holding illegal meetings, Sbiral told the Landmark that the commission was supposed to meet May 3. Instead of meeting at village hall, according to Sbiral, commission members discussed agenda items over the phone.
In response, said Sbiral, the village's risk management agency "required them to participate again in the [Open Meetings Act] training." The only commissioner to complete that training prior to the resignations was Hagle, on June 9.
Asked about Sbiral's accusations, Skweres responded by email, "If the commission was such violators in the above said statements, a simple question, why bring it up to the former commission's attention now? Would it not have been more sensible for the village to have informed the commission as the said violations had occurred, and not after the fact?"
Skweres also said she and Dorobiala completed their Open Meetings Act training in 2012.
An email from Robbins to Skweres dated June 26 was sent to remind Skweres that she and Dorobiala needed to complete Open Meetings Act training as soon as possible. Skweres responded that day, saying she and Dorobiala would soon comply.
But the two had not done so by July 19, prompting another email from Robbins, which referred to "a recent open meeting violation" and requesting that the training be completed. Less than a week later, the commissioners resigned.
The Brookfield Fire and Police Commission's last official meeting appears to have been March 1, according to meeting minutes obtained by the Landmark in response to a Freedom of Information request.
Hagle was absent from the commission's last three meetings, the minutes show. In October 2016, commissioners voted to appoint Skweres both chairwoman and secretary of the commission. Hagle had been secretary prior to that meeting.
Emails indicate that there appeared to be some tension between Skweres and Hagle on the commission. In an email from Hagle to Ketchmark on June 25, after he'd already resigned, Hagle complained that the commission lacked an office and a budget. But he also complained of Skweres keeping commission files at her home, citing that as a reason he didn't seek reappointment in October 2016 as commission secretary.
He also stated the Skweres would make "unilateral decisions under the guise that most decisions needed to be done 'right then' without consulting Alan [Dorobiala] or myself."
In September 2016, Skweres in an email to Robbins referring to an unknown subject stated that if Hagle pursued chairmanship of the commission, he wouldn't have her support.