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Details emerge in sudden retirement of Hales Corners fire chief

Posted at 6:06 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 19:20:59-04

HALES CORNERS — A former fire captain claims the Hales Corners fire chief allowed a "sexually charged" work environment and tried to cover up staffing issues that put public safety at risk.

Fire Chief Martin Freibergs submitted a letter to the village Monday morning saying he’s retiring immediately. His retirement letter made no mention why after months of controversy about the department’s staffing issues.

In January, the department didn’t have a single firefighter on duty who could operate a fire truck to respond to a car fire on Highway 100. Greendale's Fire Department was called on to put out the flames.

Former Fire Captain John Wagner was blamed for abandoning a shift, but his unredacted resignation letter claims Freibergs was equally responsible.

Wagner was at a training conference that day. He says Freibergs agreed to cover his supervisory shift months in advance.

An email chain obtained by TODAY'S TMJ4 shows Freibergs allegedly agreed to work for him.

"I will cover the daytime shifts while you attend the conference but the remainder of the shift you would still be responsible for," read an email allegedly sent by Freibergs.

A police investigation into the matter determined Wagner should have reminded Freibergs prior to attending the training conference. Wagner claims he did several times, even sending him a text message that morning. Freibergs never showed and denies he was reminded.

Freibergs suspended Wagner and suggested village officials fire him.

Wagner was also accused of sexual harassment on the job in December. He denies the allegations but claims several male firefighters created a "sexually charged" environment for women under Freibergs' watch at the station.

TODAY'S TMJ4 stopped by Freibergs’ home Tuesday to hear his side, but no one came to the door.

The Hales Corners Fire and Police Commission appointed the Hales Corners police chief to also serve as the interim fire chief as they search for a permanent replacement.

Here is Fire Chief Martin Freibergs' resignation letter: