Salem Lakes to form grievance committee to handle disputes

The Salem Lakes Village Board at a special board meeting Monday formed a committee to develop a grievance procedure.

The action was an effort by the board to address disputes over inspections at local businesses, explained village President Diann Tesar. While she had originally thought problems existed with just five or six businesses she recently learned it may be more widespread.

Recent board meetings have included Kenosha attorney J. Michael McTernan laying out during citizens comments issues clients of his — including Wilmot Stage Stop, ATE and Benders Bar and Grill — have had with what he termed unfair demands of village inspectors.

The board assigned a committee of Trustees Ron Gandt and Bill Hopkins and Fire Commission member Tom Strachan to come up with a rough draft of the makeup of a grievance committee as well as its procedures and authority. That information will be presented to the Village Board at its Feb. 6 committee of the whole meeting. A grievance committee and procedure could then be approved at the regular meeting on Feb. 13.

Hopkins said his research of how some recent inspection conflicts in Salem Lakes have been handled compared to other similar municipalities convinced him change is in order.

“I think there is some overreach,” Hopkins said.

The committee formed Monday is expected to recommend the formation of a more permanent grievance committee. Trustee Ted Kmiec suggested that committee include representation from the Village Board, the Fire Commission, Building and Zoning and the general public.

“I’m hearing that a lot of people feel they don’t have a voice,” Kmiec said.

But village attorney Richard Scholze said he felt including someone from the Fire Commission on the permanent committee could cause a conflict. That’s because the Fire Commission uniquely has some disciplinary powers.

Board members agreed to solicit letters from people interested in serving on the committee, when the time was right.

A member of the audience challenged the idea the Village Board would select from the residents to place people on the grievance committee. She said the board could pick people “on your side.”

Tesar bristled at that suggestion and the idea that the board was anti-business.

“I can’t believe that people would think we’re anti-business,” Tesar said. “I just want to clear this up just as much as any business owner that is having a problem right now. We are trying to take care of it. We have no personal gain to shut down a business.”


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