When you think of drama, you don’t typically think of local fire and police commissions. Normally, the hard-working folks responsible for screening, hiring and promoting municipal police officers and firefighters operate diligently in the background.
But for a couple of weeks recently, the Brookfield Fire and Police Commission has been in the spotlight after its three members resigned over the same weekend in late July, causing a bit of heartburn for top village officials and triggering a scramble to replace the former members.
How did this just blow up so suddenly, you ask? That’s a good question. The village manager and president say they hadn’t been aware of any recent issues with the commission. Sure, over the years there had been some complaints, mainly about space accommodation. But that was water under the bridge, village officials thought.
There was a simmering resentment, however, hinted at in emails to other village staffers and probably discussed among commissioners, who worked without pay, often over entire weekends, handling some of the village’s most important hires.
In conversations with the commission’s longtime chairwoman, Sharon Skweres, it became apparent that she felt unappreciated. She didn’t hear “thank you.” She wasn’t kept in the loop on retirements. Commissioners didn’t get invited to things like Christmas parties. She’d been serving the village a very long time, almost continuously since the late 1980s. She was looking for a little consideration.
Whether or not village officials would agree with her assessment of the situation, it’s instructive from a human perspective. People like to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile and appreciated. Most won’t ask for consideration; they expect their value to be recognized. When it isn’t, it’s diminishing.
One of the things said as this story was reported was that the commissioners asked to be reappointed and that if they weren’t happy, they could have chosen to walk away. True, but that cuts both ways.
In our reporting, officials clearly were uncomfortable with some of the ways the commission did its business. Sensitive personnel files were stored at the chairwoman’s home. There were some concerns this year about an open meetings violation.
If village leaders had problems with such things, changes in commissioners could have been made. They weren’t.
And it also came to light that one of the commissioners had been serving more than a year after his term had expired before being reappointed earlier this year. If anyone was looking for evidence of village officials not paying very close attention to the commission, that’s certainly an indicator.
The drama is over now. Last week, the village board voted in three new commissioners, all of whom have served the village well in the past and who, no doubt, will do a fine job.
Village and elected officials will, as is proper, maintain a hands-off relationship with the commission. But officials should let this last episode serve as a reminder that people still need a pat on the back every now and then, and that if there are issues, both sides need to address them promptly.
Everyone involved should be on the same page and the same team.