Terre Du Lac Police Chief Tim Cook announced his resignation Wednesday after seven years at the helm of the unincorporated community’s force.
On Wednesday evening, the Terre Du Lac Association president, Debbie Thacker, posted the association’s side of the matter, to which Cook added a rebuttal Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday morning, via the police department’s Facebook page, Cook, who worked for the police department 14 years, sent a message to the Terre Du Lac community that began, “Today is an emotional day for me,” and said he was pursuing a career “with an organization better suited to my needs and those of my family.”
Budget cuts, personnel cuts, and a perceived lack of support from the current association board were some of the reasons he cited for leaving. He added that his was the only position among TDL Association personnel that hadn’t received a raise in two years. “I don't feel like I am a valued employee anymore,” he posted.
Cook said the department ensuring the safety of the 5,200-acre development has lacked a seventh police officer for many months, and attracting someone to the position had been difficult due to salary and benefits constraints.
He said he was concerned about the reduction in force, but was told by the current president and vice president that the department budget was being cut, as well as beach and gate guards.
“Who knows what else they will cut for the PD to continue to diminish what this department once was,” he posted.
What the force has accomplished in the past, he said, included increased traffic stops, contacts, arrests, and drug busts. He said the number of burglaries was reduced to a quarter of its average of 40-50 burglaries annually.
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“For a few years, the department had the backing of the board and we were able to build a department the community could be proud of,” he said. “…The department was on top of the world, in most people's eyes.
Speaking on behalf of the association, President Thacker said Wednesday afternoon they were saddened to receive Cook’s resignation. In the post on the TDL Association’s Facebook page, she noted that she, association board members Duane Patt and Gary Keithly met with Cook on Jan. 14, “wherein he informed us that he’d had an unsettled two years with past boards which had affected his health (as stated in his post), and that he had another job opportunity lined up. I personally asked him this morning what the current board could do to make him stay and he responded, ‘nothing.’"
Thacker said the current board did request a hold on filling the current vacancy in the police department until May, after the 2020 assessments started coming in. “After the hold request was made, Chief Cook informed us he hadn't received any interest in the vacancy in 2 months anyway and didn't foresee any,” she posted.
Thacker noted that the many lawsuits in which the association and its personnel were involved recently had also taken a toll on the budget. “Unfortunately because of unforeseen shortfalls in 2019 and an ongoing and continued lawsuit (continued to March 17, 2020), all departments received cuts across the board,” she said.
Cook disputed that version of events in his Thursday afternoon post on his own Facebook account.
“Deb asked me if there was anything the board could do for me to reconsider. My exact words were and I quote, ‘Probably not, BUT... I don't start my new job until the 29th and I don't plan on changing my phone number or email address between now and then,’" he said. Cook said he meant if Thacker wanted to contact him, she could. He said he never explicitly said nothing would change his mind.
“Also, the statement made the reason I left is because of the lawsuit with the board, IS NOT THE TRUTH! That's between the board members and has nothing to do with me,” he said. “Rumors... rumors... rumors…”
Thacker had ended the Wednesday afternoon post with goodwill. “We respect Chief Cook’s wishes and extend our deepest thanks for his service to our community and wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavors,” the post said.
Cook had ended his Wednesday morning post with hopes for the police department and the community of TDL.
“I just want the people to know It has been an honor and privilege to serve this great community for the past 14 years,” he said. “Over those years, I have met and become friends with a lot of great and interesting people. It has truly been an honor to work alongside the officers of TDLPD. Without them, this department would never (have) made it to where it was. I will truly miss everyone.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.