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Sheboygan County town strips constables' duties after one posted KKK sign and Confederate flag in his yard

The Town of Wilson board unanimously voted to strip its town constables of their duties after receiving complaints that one of them displayed racist symbols in his yard, made threats and told people he planned to hang a black doll on his property.
Town Chairman John Ehmann outlined the behavior of Constable James VanEss that led to the Town Board's decision Monday night.
"Over the past few years, we have received complaints from residents of intimidation, threats, profanity and other inappropriate behavior from Mr. VanEss in the performance of his constable duties," Ehmann said, as he read from a written statement during the board's meeting. "And just recently, and most concerning, are incidents of threats from Mr. VanEss and displays of hate symbols on his property."
Ehmann said that included VanEss prominently displaying the blood-drop cross of the Ku Klux Klan and a Confederate flag in his yard. The klan is a secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, often using violence. 
John Ehmann, Town of Wilson chair, said he took this photo of a Ku Klux Klan symbol in James VanEss' yard July 3, 2020. The Sheboygan Press cropped the image to remove the township address sign that was included to confirm the location. The klan is a secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, often using violence. The town board Monday unanimously voted to strip its town constables of their duties after receiving complaints about VanEss.
"He has further discussed publicly his intent to also display a doll painted black hanging from a noose," Ehmann said. "And finally, Mr. VanEss has spoken to neighbors and acquaintances of his cache of guns and ammunition and of threats to harm anyone who interferes with his rights. Mr. VanEss has in fact threatened me."
"I think he's all wrong," VanEss said of Ehmann's comments in an interview Wednesday with The Sheboygan Press.
VanEss said the only signs he posted in his yard were in support of President Donald Trump as well as the Confederate flag. The flag, he said, represented a hobby farm he owned in Arkansas.
A Sheboygan Press reporter asked VanEss multiple times Wednesday if he planned to hang a doll painted black from a noose before he said no.
"It's none of his damn business," VanEss said of Ehmann's concerns about the signs and flag, and he referred to signs his neighbors had in their yards in support of Black Lives Matter and Democratic candidates.
VanEss said he received two pieces of hate mail and notified police.
He also said he never had a KKK symbol in his yard, but Ehmann showed photos to The Sheboygan Press of the KKK cross symbol on a stake in the ground next to the address plate for VanEss' house. Ehmann said he took the photos July 3.
Ehmann said in his statement that the board began discussing a different direction for law enforcement in Wilson in March to improve ordinance enforcement.
Town documents show constable responsibilities included serving Wilson's 3,500 residents by enforcing specific ordinances regarding rules on such topics as noise levels, public nuisances, public park and animal regulations, littering and parking. The constables also helped police or emergency responders with traffic control in Wilson, which is just south of the city of Sheboygan.
Restructuring the constable positions, evaluating the town's contract with the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department and possibly joining the city of Sheboygan's municipal court were included in the discussion.
Part of that discussion, Ehmann said, included replacing the constables with appointed ordinance enforcement positions. But the timeline to take action on eliminating the constables' duties was moved up because of VanEss' history of complaints, Ehmann said.
The constables also weren't consistent in responding to residents, Ehmann said in an interview.
Ehmann said he asked VanEss to resign, but when VanEss wouldn't, the board decided to take action.

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