The superintendent of a small school district in Northern Illinois could receive almost $200,000 in severance pay following his arrest on felony unlawful restraint and misdemeanor domestic battery charges, according to documents obtained by The Beacon-News.
Earlville School District Superintendent Wade Winekauf, 57, was arrested Nov. 27 in rural Grand Detour after Ogle County sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a domestic disturbance, according to a sheriff's office report and Ogle County records. Winekauf faces felony unlawful restraint and two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery, according to online court records. A woman also filed a restraining order against Winekauf several days after his November arrest, according to the sheriff's office.
The charges stem from a single incident, said his attorney, Paul Whitcombe. Winekauf is maintaining innocence in matters related to the case, Whitcombe said.
"He (Winekauf) is very confident that he will not be found guilty," Whitcombe said.
Winekauf has been out of the school district office since the arrest, said K-12 Principal Rich Faivre. He was temporarily working from home and has been using vacation days since the retirement agreement that could pay him up to $192,000 was negotiated in early February, Faivre said.
Winekauf, who makes $129,079.93 a year as superintendent, also worked as a part-time police officer for seven years before he was charged. Winekauf is still listed on the police department roster in Polo, an Ogle County city of about 2,000. But Polo Police Chief Dennis Christen said Winekauf handed over both department-issued and personal weapons when he was arrested, and he's currently not doing police work.
"I didn't put him on probation or anything," Christen said. "It's just an understanding that he has been charged and not convicted, and he lost control of his weapons."
Winekauf was set to lead the Earlville School District's roughly 430 students and 35 full-time teachers through June 2018, but will instead retire March 11, documents provided to The Beacon-News show. Winekauf has been with the district for about nine years and worked as superintendent since 2011, said Faivre, who will step into the superintendent job in July. The district has agreed to pay Winekauf and provide benefits, including seven unused vacation days, through June 30, a prorated amount in the ballpark of $50,000. Depending on the outcome of the case, he could also get a severance payment worth the average of the salaries he would have received the next two years, just shy of $141,000, according to his contract.
Winekauf's retirement agreement stipulates that the severance payments, due in semi-monthly installments between Aug. 15, 2016, and Nov. 1, 2017, would end if he is convicted of a felony. If he has a felony conviction overturned, the payments would resume for a total package that two district officials estimated would be worth around $192,000. The agreement does not include stipulations for a misdemeanor conviction. The district also will pay him for seven unused vacation days and continue to cover his health insurance through June 2017.
Faivre, who has worked in Earlville since 2012, said he knew Winekauf before he came to the district: Winekauf was his high school football and wrestling coach in Polo, he said.
"I was surprised by (the arrest)," he said. "In terms of what we've been doing afterward, we've just been trying to move forward as a district to the best we can." Daniel Joyce, a retired principal and superintendent in nearby Serena Community Unit School District 2, is acting as a consultant until mid-March. Joyce will then act as interim superintendent until Faivre assumes the role full-time on July 1, Faivre said.
School board President Roger Torman did not respond to requests for comment. Faivre and Joyce declined to comment on the retirement agreement. Winekauf, who also could not be reached for comment, is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing at 9 a.m. March 14 in Ogle County Circuit Court.
A felony conviction or domestic battery conviction of any level would prevent Winekauf from returning to the Polo Police Department part-time job, which pays $20 per hour, Christen said.
"He knows that it depends on the outcome of the trial," Christen said. "He knows he obviously can't be a police officer at this time."
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