Tempers flare as village president comes under fire

Newburg official faces blunt criticism at meeting after commission determined she violated ethics code
Ozaukee Press Staff

It wasn’t on the agenda, but the controversy over whether Newburg’s new village president violated the village ethics code drew a crowd of more than 30 people to last week’s Village Board meeting and was the subject of heated discussion.

The village Ethics Commision last month found Village President Rina Chesak, who is married to Fire Chief Mark Chesak, to have had a conflict of interest, violating the village ethics code, when she discussed the fire department’s proposed contract with the village, ignoring Village Attorney Ian Prust’s advice to recuse herself. She did not vote on the contract, however.

Tempers flared several times at last week’s meeting as charges and counter charges were tossed about during the public comment portion of the meeting.

After he was accused of being biased and having his own conflicts of interest, former village president and Ethics Commission Chairman Mike Heili told Mark Chesak that he should “grow a pair,” causing an uproar in the room and prompting Chesak to repeatedly shout at Heili to “watch your mouth.” 

Rina Chesak was elected president in April, outpolling former president Jenny Strohmayer.

Mark Chesak said some members of the board and the community are out to “crucify” his wife.

Many in attendance at last Thursday’s meeting expected the matter to be on the agenda but instead trustees had decided beforehand to discuss it as a Committee of the Whole at 7 pm. on Thursday, May 23, at the Village Hall.

While the Ethics Commission found Rina Chesak had violated the ethics code, it is up to the Village Board to impose sanctions, which under state statutes can include imposing a fine of up to $1,000. The board does not have the power to unseat Chesak, however.

Another former village president, Bill Sackett, urged the board to take action against Chesak, prefacing his comments by saying that what he was about to say “will jeopardize those friendships” he had with some people in the room. 

“If (a penalty) remains undone, the issue will continue to be discussed,” Sackett said.

Former Assistant Police Chief Scott Yanke, who in January accused Chesak of misconduct in office, prompting a Washington County Sheriff’s investigation, called Chesak’s behavior “an absolute travesty” and that she “needs to be held accountable to the maximum amount” to help offset the cost to the village.

Following the sheriff’s investigation, Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen’s office declined to issue charges.

Mark Chesak said his wife was being singled out, saying that he had been attending board meetings for 18 years and many times saw trustees make similar violations without sanctions.

Later in the meeting, the board appointed Chris Stangel to the Village Board to fill the seat vacated by Chesak. 

Stangel was chosen over Phyllis Damrow, who pointed to her many years as a volunteer with the fire department, youth baseball and 4-H.

Stangel, a member of the village Planning Commission, told trustees he had only lived in the village for seven years.

“I’m not from here. I don’t know anybody here,” he said. 

Trustees voted 4-1 to appoint Stangel.



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