By Shereen Siewert and Damakant Jayshi | Wausau Pilot & Review

Richard Downey, who has been administrator in Kronenwetter for more than a decade, is on administrative leave while several high-level staff have also departed in recent weeks for reasons that have not been publicly announced.

On Monday, Duane Gau, an Associate from consulting firm Public Administration Associates, was appointed interim administrator with a pay rate of $76 per hour. The municipality will pay the amount to PAA. Gau is expected to spend 32 hours per week in the position, for a weekly pay rate of $2,432, officials said. His contract is for three months but could be extended. Audio for the July 11 meeting is not yet available.

Village officials have not said what led to Downey’s leave and have not confirmed that his departure is permanent. On May 9, the Village Board entered closed session for a “discussion with village attorney regarding consideration of dismissal, demotion, licensing or discipline of any public employee or person licensed by a board or commission or the investigation of charges against such person,” specifically mentioning the village administrator. After the closed session, the board voted to continue negotiations with the village attorney, according to a recording of the meeting’s open session.

Downey’s name appears on a report to the village board as recently as July 11, according to meeting materials.

Gau was previously the interim community development director for the village.

In Downey’s July 11 report, he mentions that the village will be “welcoming a new community development director, a new village clerk, a new communication specialist and a new utility clerk,” suggesting significant recent staffing changes.

Downey, in his memo, said Gau, suggested closing the municipal offices on Fridays to allow staff to “find their footing and catch up on things.” A news release issued by the board announced the change, which means the closures will begin July 15 and end on Oct. 7. Downey’s memo suggests staff will be in the office during those dates but will not take walk-in traffic, and phones will be placed in after hours mode.

The reason for multiple departures in a short time span is unclear.

“We have several staff move on to new opportunities over several weeks,” Gau told Wausau Pilot & Review, adding many employers are experiencing difficulty in recruiting. Gau said Communications Specialist Jennifer Poyer resigned and her last date is July 15.

Prior to his tenure with Kronenwetter, Downey had a brief stint as administrator in Washington, Ill., and spent eight years as the Rock Falls, Ill. administrator, according to his LinkedIn profile. Kronenwetter, with a population of just over 8,000 people, is just south of Wausau and is one of the fastest-growing communities in the metro area.

Wausau Pilot & Review has reached out to Kronenwetter Village Board President Chris Voll and municipal staff to clarify the reasons for the change but did not receive immediate responses.