Kenneth Blaauw, who has served as public works director for the village of Brookfield for nearly two years, is no longer in charge of operations and is no longer employed by Brookfield, Village Manager Keith Sbiral has confirmed.
Sbiral would not discuss the circumstance surrounding Blaauw’s departure, which took place on April 28, saying only that Blaauw “is no longer with the village of Brookfield.”
“I continue to have no comment on personnel issues, as is appropriate under law,” Sbiral wrote in an email in response to questions from the Landmark about the situation. “If you have questions related to Ken I suggest you contact him directly.”
Attempts to contact Blaauw were unsuccessful.
Village President Kit Ketchmark also had no comment, referring all questions to Sbiral.
In the meantime, according to Sbiral, public works employees are reporting directly to him and that a search process to find a new public works director is getting started.
“I am currently working with vendors to develop proposals for a search for the position,” Sbiral said.
Director of public works has been a position that’s seen quite a bit of turnover in the past decade. Blaauw was the village’s fourth public works director since 2010. His predecessor, Dan Kaup spent a little less than three years in the position before moving on.
When he was hired in June 2015, Blaauw appeared to be a perfect fit for the village. A civil engineer, Blaauw worked in both the private and public sectors before coming to Brookfield. He spent a decade in Plainfield as a municipal engineer and another five with the construction contractor R.W. Dunteman.
Blaauw brought new ideas to the department, such as his attempts to create in-house crews that could perform tasks such as concrete and asphalt street patching and finding new ways to address the village’s unpaved and perpetually flooded and pockmarked alleys.
The village purchased a new heavy-duty road grader to excavate and resurface alleys with gravel in 2017. The results have been met by mixed reviews from residents.
However, Blaauw’s methods and approach also aggravated some of his employees, who have filed several grievances since April 2016 complaining of mistreatment by him and by Sbiral.
One of those complaints, since withdrawn by the Teamsters, according to Sbiral, became an issue in February as municipal elections drew closer. Teamsters picketed outside Brookfield Village Hall on Feb. 13, the night of a village board meeting, to make public their displeasure with Blaauw.
A release handed to the press that night stated, “Ken Blaauw has been going after our union members for no reason. His aggressive behavior is detrimental to not only the morale of the workforce and the peaceful relationship with the union, but it is detrimental to the taxpayers of Brookfield, and this needs to stop.”
Meanwhile, a flier handed out by union members outside village hall that night claimed public works employees had filed “grievances, unfair labor practice charges and discrimination charges” against Brookfield and called village management’s actions a “war on public works employees.”
More grievances were filed by the Teamsters after Feb. 1, Sbiral confirmed. The Landmark has filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain information regarding those grievances and any sanctions the village may have received.