The Hales Corners fire chief abruptly retired Monday hours before he was to have an employment review before the Fire and Police Commission.
Chief Martin Freibergs’ letter of retirement took the commission and the Village Board by surprise, according to Board President Dan Besson.
The review was the only item on the Fire and Police Commission’s agenda Monday night. After going on the record for a brief moment to start the meeting, the commission went behind closed doors to discuss the personnel issue.
Besson said the chief’s retirement was effective immediately but added that all shifts at the department are covered. The village’s police chief was sworn in as a temporary head of the fire department until a permanent replacement can be found.
The chief’s retirement comes at a troubling time for the department. Last summer TODAY’S TMJ4 learned only one firefighter was on duty on the Labor Day holiday to protect the nearly 8,000 residents of Hales Corners. In January an investigation found there was no one on duty that could operate a fire engine to put out a car fire.
Fire Captain John Wagner was later accused of abandoning his shift, leading to the situation. As part of the investigation, Wagner was accused of sexual harassment. The chief recommended Wagner be fired. Hours before he was to appeal to the commission, he too resigned.
The Fire and Police Commission wouldn’t comment Monday, but said more information will be released Tuesday,