Brookfield’s village board on July 24 was in line to swear in Firefighter Matt Dubik to the rank of lieutenant, a seemingly routine piece of village business.
But the promotion was derailed when the three-person Brookfield Fire and Police Commission resigned en masse before the vote without having approved Dubik’s promotion.
According to the village code, it’s the commission’s responsibility to “provide for promotion in the fire and police divisions on the basis of ascertained merit and seniority in service and examination.”
The former longtime chairwoman of the Fire and Police Commission, Sharon Skweres, told the Landmark that the village manager bypassed the commission in placing the promotion on the village board agenda without formal approval of the promotion by the commission.
A July 5 email sent by Fire Chief Patrick Lenzi to Village Manager Keith Sbiral, Deputy Clerk Theresa Coady and Skweres asked, “When is the soonest village board meeting date that Matt Dubik can be promoted to lieutenant? If possible, I would like to have Matt promoted at the 2nd meeting in July so that we can reduce the possibility of officer overtime occurring on Gold Shift,” Lenzi wrote, noting that Skweres had been copied on the email.
Skweres said that email itself indicated that someone had already been picked for promotion before the Fire and Police Commission had made its determination, though Dubik was No. 1 on the lieutenant promotion list and the commission would have picked Dubik had they been asked to convene about the promotion.
“It was nothing against Matt,” she said. “He was an innocent victim. He’s an excellent choice.”
Skweres said she saw the fire chief’s email within a day of it being sent, but she said she didn’t respond to the email, because she was waiting for correspondence from the village manager about the need for the commission to meet to recommend a firefighter for promotion.
“It’s very clear how this is supposed to work,” said Skweres.
Sbiral, however, said he assumed that in the wake of the chief’s email and his authorization of the promotion that the commission was working on the promotion.
“Once that’s done, they have to fill the position,” Sbiral said. “I thought they’d already talked about it.”
The Fire and Police Commission, by statute, operates independently of the village board and largely of village staff. It has its own attorney and its files are off limits to everyone save members of the commission.
Village President Kit Ketchmark said he was “stunned” by the resignation of all three commissioners.
“Nothing was communicated to me that there was an issue,” Ketchmark said. “This caught me out of the loop.”
Ketchmark said that Lenzi’s email was clear in what was being requested and that a commission as independent at the Fire and Police Commission should have known what to do in its wake.
“There’s some responsibility [on the commission’s part],” Ketchmark said. “If you want to be independent, there’s a responsibility when there’s an opening to follow through on these things.”
Skweres has been a member of the Fire and Police Commission since the 1990s after having served as recording secretary for the commission under the administration of Village President Pierce McCabe in the late 1980s.
The Dubik promotion doesn’t appear to have been something that in and of itself would have triggered such a response from commissioners. Rather, the episode was “the climax” for Skweres, who says the commission has felt disrespected for the past decade.
“Things have really changed in the last 10 to 12 years,” Skweres said. “It’s little things, like fighting for an office, fighting for access to cabinets. These are the things that shouldn’t happen.
“I feel the commission is one of the most active in the village.”
When she began on the commission, Skweres said its office was next to the village president’s office. It was later moved to the finance department and then to a cramped “dimly lit” basement office that didn’t have enough room for the commission’s files.
The commission has been without an office in the village hall since 2007, and Skweres has done commission work from home, where she’s also kept personnel files. The commission’s file cabinets, she said, are kept in an unsecured vault in the village hall and are difficult to access.
Upon her resignation, public works employees reportedly removed 16 or 17 boxes of commission files from Skweres’ home.
The other members of the commission were former village trustee and president Alan Dorobiala and former village trustee Tom Hagle. When contacted by phone late last week, Dorobiala said he told Ketchmark he was resigning because “I’m tired and that’s it. It’s time to sit back and relax.”
Asked about the Dubik promotion issue, Dorobiala, who has been on the commission since 2005, declined to comment. Hagle refused comment altogether.
At no time, Ketchmark said, did any of the commissioners communicate to him any serious problems. All asked to be reappointed to the commission, and though he’d had interest from others, Ketchmark complied with their wishes.
“If there are issues, when it’s time for reappointment, then that’s the time to walk away,” Ketchmark said.
The resignations come at a time when there’s a lot on the plate of the Fire and Police Commission.
In addition to the fire lieutenant promotion, the commission has to conduct testing for a newly open captain’s position and it has to hire a police officer and a firefighter. The police sergeants’ promotion list also was never signed by all three members of the commission, so that still needs to be done.
All of that is on hold until a new commission can be sworn in and get to work.
Ketchmark has called a special meeting of the village board on Aug. 3 at 4 p.m. to swear in three new commissioners, who will then have to meet soon after to attend to business.
He hopes that Dubik will be sworn in as fire lieutenant at the village board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 28.