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Amery chief of police, mayor step down in same week

Several social media posts about the two now former city leaders have racked up tens and even hundreds of thousands of views.

Amery chief of police, mayor step down in same week

Source: City of Amery

July 7, 2023 8:57 AM CDT
By: Jimmie Kaska

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AMERY, Wis. (WLAK) – The City of Amery will be seeking new leadership in two key positions after this week.

Steve Hainzl, the Chief of Police, abruptly retired on Monday, which was accepted by the Amery City Council on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Amery’s mayor, Chad Leonard, sent his resignation letter in to the City Council and City Administrator Patty Bjorklund.

Hainzl was the subject of several viral social media posts that alleged he and his wife were making pornographic videos. Hainzl denied those claims in his retirement letter, saying that his wife’s work as a bikini model was being used as an attack against his character. He cited “intolerable conditions” in his letter and said that a lack of communication, as well as misinformation, led to his decision to step down after only five months on the job.

Last month, Hainzl’s firing of Bethany Eskro, the Amery Police Department’s administrative assistant, was overturned by the City Council in a 4-1 vote. Hainzl fired Eskro for her role in making social media posts critical of the city’s government and employees. In his retirement letter, Hainzl said that department policy didn’t require him to go through human resources to make the staffing change, but was told during a public meeting that he should have. Social media posts about the situation have amassed tens of thousands of views.

The release from the city’s administrator announcing the retirement cited the social media posts directly.

“The City has been notified that the retirement letter from Mr. Hainzl has made its way to social media,” Bjorklund said in the release. “Please note that these accusations and opinions are in no way a reflection of the City of Amery as a whole, to include the Amery Police Department.”

Hainzl’s retirement was accepted unanimously and is effective on July 10. According to a release, the City will not have an acting police chief, but instead will begin searching for a new police chief. Amery is also advertising for a full-time police officer. The City Council voted to begin the search during its Wednesday meeting.

The morning after Hainzl’s retirement was accepted, Amery Mayor Chad Leonard’s resignation letter was received by the City Council and City Administrator. In his resignation letter, Leonard wrote that he was disappointed that the “loudest voices” were being heard, and not necessarily for the best interests of the community.

“Addressing these forces openly and honestly is exhausting, and frankly, no longer worth the effort,” Leonard wrote. “At the end of the day, it is the city that suffers, because if ever there was a deterrent to serving in public office, this is it.”

Leonard was elected mayor in the spring of 2022, running unopposed. He previously was a member of the City Council. His term expires next spring. City Council President Eric Elkin will be Acting Mayor of Amery until after next spring’s election.

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