Wisconsin roundup: Muslim prayer issue prompts federal lawsuit for Ariens Co.; more state news stories

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GREEN BAY — A federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Green Bay alleges Ariens Co. is violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.

Somali Muslim workers at the plant in Brillion say they are being forced to choose between not performing their prayers or possibly losing their jobs. Ariens changed its break policy last year.

Before the change, Muslim employees were allowed to leave the production line twice each shift to pray for five minutes.

To avoid unscheduled breaks in production, Ariens Co. told its workers to pray during scheduled breaks in designated prayer rooms. Seven employees were fired for failing to comply and 14 others resigned.

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Former Ripon teacher charged with sexual assault of student

RIPON — A former Ripon High School teacher is facing charges of child enticement and sexual assault of a student by school staff, after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

Television station WBAY reports that 28-year-old Samantha Fitzpatrick appeared in court Wednesday via video conferencing. A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 5. Ripon police say they received a tip on April 24 from someone who said she had information about an "inappropriate relationship" between a high school teacher and a student. Police spoke with another teacher at the school who told them she noticed the victim was in Fitzpatrick's classroom a lot. Investigators say they found many sexually explicit conversations between Fitzpatrick and the student on Fitzpatrick's phone.

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Injury to cop sends man to prison for 3 years

JUNEAU — A Dodge County Circuit Court judge has sentenced a 33-year-old man to three years in a state prison for injuring a police officer.

Bradley Buechel was convicted last September on a felony charge of resisting an officer causing a soft tissue injury. Beaver Dam police officers were on patrol last May when three people ran away from them. One officer tackled Buechel and was injured when the suspect fought while trying to escape.

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Bipartisan task force to study Wis. school funding

MADISON — A bipartisan task force has been created to conduct the first review of Wisconsin school funding in the last 20 years.

Lawmakers on that panel will hold their first meeting later this month, then will conduct a series of hearings across the state. They are expected to submit a report to the Legislature of the end of 2018. Two Republicans, Sen. Luther Olsen and Rep. Joel Kitchens, will co-chair the task force. It will have 14 members, including three Democratic lawmakers and five school officials.

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DOJ recommends no criminal charges for John Doe leak

MADISON — The Wisconsin Attorney General says probable cause does exist to believe a crime was committed when information was leaked, but there's not enough evidence to file charges.

Brad Schimel released the results of his office's investigation into the case labeled “John Doe II” Wednesday. Information from a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign appeared in a British publication in violation of a judge's order. The Wisconsin Justice Department blames the Government Accountability Board for the leak, but it doesn't name a specific individual. Jefferson County Circuit Judge William Hue says he hopes to complete his work on the case in the next 40 days.

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Feds file charges against 19 alleged drug ring members

MILWAUKEE — Federal charges have been filed against 19 members of an alleged drug ring who were arrested Wednesday in three different cities.

Based in Milwaukee, investigators say the ring operated in Chicago and Burlington, Iowa, too. More than 250 federal, state and local law enforcement officers took part in the roundup. They seized about 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, heroin, more than 20 guns, eight vehicles and an undetermined amount of cash. U.S. Attorney Greg Haanstad says the contraband was found while federal search warrants were being executed. The suspects are charged with taking part in a drug conspiracy, a bankruptcy fraud operation and laundering money.

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Waukesha City Council OKs water deal — finally

WAUKESHA — Water customers in Waukesha should be drinking Lake Michigan water by sometime early in 2023.

That city's common council has given its unanimous approval to a $286 million agreement to buy water from Milwaukee. Waukesha has been working on the project for 15 years. Supporters say the water agreement with Milwaukee will save residents an estimated $200 a year, compared to the option of piping water from Oak Creek's distribution system. Waukesha will pay Milwaukee about $3 million to deliver an average of 6 million gallons of lake water each day. Construction on the delivery system should begin by 2019.

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Eau Claire officials discuss potential uses of new drone

EAU CLAIRE — The City of Eau Claire is discussing potential uses for a new drone.

The city staff got hands-on training with the unmanned aerial vehicle Tuesday. The police department has already used the drone to help with several search and rescue missions over the last few months. City officials are also looking to use the drone as a tool to map out parts of the city for development.

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Equipment from closed Oscar Meyer plant goes on sale

MADISON — Bidders can buy grinders, packaging equipment, printing machines and refrigeration units during a three-day auction of equipment left behind at the closed Oscar Mayer plant.

Kraft Heinz closed the plant in June as part of a restructuring following the 2015 merger between Kraft and H.J. Heinz. Reich Brothers Holdings and Rabin Worldwide are selling the assets which weren't moved to other Kraft Heinz factories. More than 2,000 pieces of equipment are available.