A majority of Holmen village trustees want the chief of the Holmen Area Fire Department ousted in the wake of his second-offense drunken-driving conviction.
Paul Menches, 61, was sentenced Wednesday to serve two days in jail, had his driver’s license suspended for a year and fined $1,454 in the wake of a January accident.
On Thursday, the board that oversees the Holmen Area Fire District and its chief — which includes representatives from Holmen and the towns of Onalaska and Holland — voted unanimously to reprimand Menches but continue his employment.
But later in the day, the Holmen Village Board — on a split vote — issued a vote of no-confidence.
The majority of village board members released a statement through the village administrator’s office stating: “We disagree with the actions of the fire board, and we have no confidence in Paul Menches as fire chief and do not support his continued employment.
“The majority of the Holmen Village Board does not support Chief Menches; they no longer see him as credible and they would like him to resign. They felt it was imperative that the Holmen public know that they do not support the actions of the fire board and the fire board representatives which appear to have resulted in the continued employment of Menches.”
Village Board President Nancy Proctor and trustees Doug Jorstad, Dawn Kulcinski and Steve Johnston voted to issue the statement.
The two village representatives on the fire district board, Chuck Olson and Bill Ebner, were joined by village trustee Rich Anderson in opposing the no-confidence statement.
Olson said Menches has brought stability to the department during his year as chief.
“I believe the impact of terminating the chief would have repercussions for the department and the communities it serves,” said Olson. “It would create a tremendous amount of turmoil in the department and communities. I’m not sweeping it (Menches’ accident) under the rug, but there’s been a positive change in the department (since Menches became chief).”
But Jorstad voted to call for Menches’ dismissal because he believed the village’s fire board representatives decided to retain Menches without input from the village board.
“When we learned about it (Menches’ accident), we asked to be kept informed,” said Jorstad. “The unsettling part was our own fire board representatives made the decision (to continue to employ Menches) without consulting the board.”