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ADAM ROGAN, adam.rogan@journaltimes.com 

Hercules, a dog rescued by the Wisconsin Humane Society, gnaws on his new favorite bone Tuesday at the society's Racine campus in Chicory Road.


Local
Waxdale Upgrade Planned
Major Waxdale upgrade planned; SCJ to offer early retirements

RACINE COUNTY — SC Johnson is preparing to invest $110 million to $140 million in upgrading production lines inside its Waxdale manufacturing plant and offer voluntary early retirements there.

Company spokeswoman Kelly Semrau said Tuesday that SCJ will invest about $80 million more than usual at Waxdale during the next three years. With those upgrades will come early retirement offers.

Meetings were held Tuesday with all approximately 600 Waxdale employees, on all three shifts, to tell them of the plans. SCJ Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson and top leadership conveyed the news of the coming upgrades and early retirement offers, which Semrau said could be given to up to 200 employees.

Over the years, Semrau said, the company has invested about $10 million to $20 million each year, and sometimes up to $30 million, to modernize production lines at Waxdale, located at 8311 16th St. in Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant.

Despite those annual investments, some of the 17 production lines could be as old as 30 to 40 years, Semrau said.

“Competitiveness” is driving the upcoming investment, which will be the largest since the 1954 plant began production, Semrau said.

“Automation is going on everywhere,” she added. “We’ve had nothing this large, this intensive.”

More robotics planned

The coming modernization will include both layouts and equipment and will increase the extent to which robotics are incorporated into operations inside Waxdale, Semrau said. Which lines will be upgraded is yet to be determined.

“As we modernize, we will be doing voluntary early retirements,” she said, “because over the next two to three years, we will need fewer people.” The likely goal will be to trim 150 to 200 from the present Waxdale workforce of about 600.

The modernization should begin within 12 months, Semrau said, and take up to three years to complete.

SCJ manufactures more than 3 billion products at Waxdale each year: nearly 700 different types of retail items of the brands Scrubbing Bubbles, Raid, Glade, Off, Pledge, Windex, Drano, Fantastik and Shout.


Local
WIND LAKE FIRE CO.
Wind Lake fire chief accused of homophobia, misconduct in Verona

Catenacci

WIND LAKE — The Norway town chairwoman is taking a wait-and-see stand regarding allegations of misconduct in Dane County against Don Catenacci, the new fire chief for the Wind Lake Volunteer Fire Company.

Catenacci, in addition to his part-time position as fire chief in Wind Lake, is also a part-time assistant chief for the Verona Fire Department in Dane County.

In Verona, several emergency medical services personnel with the Fitch-Rona EMS District and a lieutenant with Verona Fire have accused Catenacci of mocking personnel, making homophobic comments and disguising violence as “horseplay.” Fitch-Rona and Verona Fire share a facility in Verona. However, several members of the Verona Fire Department — including purported victims — have defended Catenacci, according to a report provided to The Journal Times by the City of Verona.

According to the report: “Assistant Chief Catenacci claims he has made a concerted effort over the past few months to change his behavior to include not touching people, remembering that he is a chief at all times in the eyes of subordinates, and holding himself to a higher standard of accountability for his behavior.”

Jean Jacobson, town chair for Norway, which contracts its fire and EMS services from the Wind Lake Fire Company, said she wants to “wait and see” what happens with the investigation in Verona before considering recommending any action against Catenacci in Wind Lake.

Jacobson added that she has been “extremely impressed with the work he’s done so far” since Catenacci became chief in September, succeeding Rob Robins, who retired.

“There’s always two sides to the story and I think there’s a lot more to this story that we don’t know at this time,” Jacobson said. “The chief has been acting as a chief in a very professional manner ... we have no reason to look at him in any negative manner.”

Neither Willy Ellertson, the president of Wind Lake Fire Co., nor a spokesman for the Dane County firefighters’ union that raised the allegations replied to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Wind Lake names new fire chief

WIND LAKE — The business of firefighting has changed a lot since Don Catenacci, Wind Lake’s new part-time fire chief, started firefighting in 1977.

Eight allegations

The City of Verona commissioned Dale G. Burke of The Riseling Group — a Madison-based consulting firm — to conduct an investigation after Fire Fighters Local 311, a Dane County firefighters’ union, issued a letter on June 5 to the City of Verona. The letter reportedly included allegations of mistreatment perpetrated by Catenacci and a continuous lack of discipline enforced by Verona Chief Joe Giver.

Following is a summary of the alleged misconduct incidents perpetrated by Catenacci that have been detailed in The Riseling Group’s report:

  • Catenacci allegedly poked fun of someone for “liking guys.” He later asked a paramedic, who is homosexual, “When did you know you were gay?” followed by several related questions, which the paramedic said made him feel uncomfortable. When interviewed by Burke, Catenacci “stated he was only trying to gain a better understanding of what being gay is. He claims he told (the paramedic), several times and at several points, that he would stop the questioning/conversation at any point if (he) wanted to stop or was uncomfortable.”
  • While on shift and shopping at Farm and Fleet on Sept. 19, 2015, Catenacci, who had not yet been promoted to assistant chief, allegedly punched his adult son, who is also a firefighter, in the genitals, causing his son to double over in pain. Both Catenacci and his son said that they have “engaged in this type of horseplay for years” and his son “didn’t give the behavior a second thought.”
  • Catenacci allegedly swore at and delivered “four quick jabs” to a firefighter who had been refusing to give Catenacci a wash hose. Witnesses said they didn’t remember the incident and “would not have considered Assistant Chief’s behavior inappropriate or out of line,” according to the report.
  • Catenacci allegedly slapped a firefighter intern. The intern told Burke that he didn’t remember the incident, but added that “Catenacci has engaged in similar behavior occasionally with him and others … (and that) the behavior has never hurt or caused him pain and didn’t feel it was meant to demean or humiliate him.” Ted Higgins, the secretary/treasurer for Local 311, told The Journal Times that Catenacci has been repeatedly accused of treating interns less kindly than he does firefighters.
  • Catenacci allegedly playfully slapped a firefighter across the face, although the firefighter reported not feeling threatened and that the slap didn’t hurt.
  • When a firefighter was late to register for a required online training course, Catenacci reportedly joked, “I’m gonna punch him in the face,” but firefighters who heard Catenacci say that told Burke that they didn’t think the statement was made seriously.
  • After a Verona Fire Department officer had a vasectomy, Catenacci is accused of taunting the lieutenant, saying, “Look at how scared you are. You are acting like a 15-year-old virgin going into a store to buy porn for the first time.” This incident was brought to The Riseling Group’s attention by a witness, not the lieutenant himself. The firefighter who underwent the vasectomy told Burke he didn’t remember the incident at all.
  • Catenacci repeatedly rubbed the heads of two bald paramedics. One of the paramedics, who filed a complaint, said “this immediately made me feel uncomfortable because there has been a significant history of unwanted touching.” Catenacci admitted to Burke that he had “rubbed the heads of the two men occasionally in a playful manner and had a hard time fathoming how or why someone would take offense.”

Investigation

International Association of Fire Fighters Local 311, which represents firefighters in Madison and surrounding communities, has called for the resignations or firings of Catenacci and Giver. As of this week, Giver and Catenacci remained in their posts with the Verona Fire Department, although some reprimand has reportedly occurred.

Two weeks ago, Verona Mayor Luke Diaz helped institute a plan to address problems and “enhance the culture and professional direction” in the department, as well as ordering fire personnel to undergo harassment training, Diaz told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Verona City Administrator Jeff Mikorski told The Journal Times that Catenacci has now been disciplined by Giver and that the situation is being regarded as “a personnel issue.”

The Riseling Group reported that 28 different people affiliated with the Verona Fire Department were interviewed during the investigation.

“No one interviewed within the Verona Fire Department took Assistant Chief Catenacci’s statements or alleged inappropriate behavior seriously or attached any ill will to any of his verbal behavior,” the report stated. “Nobody spoke of being threatened or intimidated by him and all of the fire department personnel said they believed that if they asked him to stop any witnessed or experienced unwanted or inappropriate behavior, he would do so … while all stated the behavior did not bother them personally, many admitted that it was ‘probably not appropriate’ conduct for a chief level officer.”

“No one interviewed within the Verona Fire Department took Assistant Chief Catenacci’s statements or alleged inappropriate behavior seriously or attached any ill will to any of his verbal behavior.” Riseling Group report

Crime-and-courts
In Federal court
Shannon family's lawsuit against City of Racine dismissed

Shannon

RACINE — The civil lawsuit filed by the estate of Donte Shannon, the Racine man killed by Racine police earlier this year, has been dismissed.

The case, which was originally filed Feb. 5 by Shannon’s family and sought damages for the 26-year-old’s death, was dismissed without prejudice on Nov. 13 by a federal judge. As part of the dismissal, neither party will be assessed costs and each party will have to pay its own attorneys’ fees.

Shannon was killed Jan. 17 by officers after he reportedly fled a traffic stop and brandished a gun.

Following an investigation by the state Department of Justice, Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson in March cleared the involved officers, Chad Stillman and Peter Boeck, of any wrongdoing in the matter.

The officers and city were defendants in the lawsuit, in which Shannon’s family alleges that Shannon’s civil rights were violated during the fatal event.

Delays

A trial was scheduled to begin on Feb. 19, court documents show. In August, the plaintiff acquired new counsel. On Aug. 20, the plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion to alter the trial schedule. That motion was denied.

On Sept. 6, a motion to reconsider the previous motion was filed, and was again denied.

“It is also painfully obvious that, even with the benefit of the court’s comprehensive trial scheduling order in hand, plaintiff and counsel did nothing in the following months to prepare the case for trial,” court records denying the motion state.

Five days before the case was dismissed, the plaintiff’s counsel entered a request to withdraw from the case. In the request, counsel states “the Plaintiff and counsel have irreconcilable differences over issues arising out of this litigation, as well as over the management and direction of the litigation.”

The dismissal was filed on Nov. 13.

Allegations

The lawsuit claimed the officers’ use of deadly force was unjustified because they “knew Donte from the neighborhood, knew that he was not violent, knew that he was a runner and he was running away from the officer, not toward him.”

The suit argued Shannon did not take any action that would justify the use of deadly force. The suit further alleges that Shannon did not pose “an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm sufficient to justify the use of deadly force by the defendants.”

In addition to claiming a violation of constitutional rights, the suit also argued that the city failed to adequately train, supervise, control and discipline its officers.

The city, represented by Gunta Law Offices, said the lawsuit was dismissed because “it was clear that the defendants were justified in their use of force,” attorney Gregg Gunta said.

“This was not a matter they wished to pursue due to factual circumstances,” Gunta said. “They shot because he was threatening their lives.”

Family plans to refile

The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled at a later date. That is something Nakia Shannon, Donte’s father, says he intends to do.

Since the dismissal, Nakia said he has been working with two Chicago attorneys. He said the family plans to refile the lawsuit again soon, and says there will be more evidence than before.

“There is a lot of stuff that just don’t add up,” Nakia said. “A lot of stuff keeps coming up that they are covering up.”


Shannon


Johnson


Jacobson


Catenacci