Sauk Village trustees lock police chief out — literally
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org
January 23, 2012 8:22PM
He has no salary or contract. A memo from village officials says he no longer is in charge. And while he was at lunch Monday, the locks on the police department doors were changed to keep him out.
Despite all of this, Sauk Village Police Chief Robert Fox still planned to show up for work Tuesday, one day after two trustees ordered him to leave the station during an angry confrontation.
“I took an oath to serve and protect and I plan to follow it to the end,” Fox said.
The unusual actions are the result of a power struggle between Mayor Lewis Towers and a majority of the village board.
Towers appointed Fox to the top cop position, without board approval, in November. The board then passed a law limiting Towers’ appointment powers to two 30-day periods, which they said expired Saturday for Fox. Towers has filed a lawsuit to rescind the law.
The board never approved a salary or contract for Fox, either, and after a $4,600 check was issued to Fox last month at the mayor’s request, the board put Treasurer Genorise Carmichael and village manager Henrietta Turner on paid administrative leave for a week for paying him.
Carmichael and Turner have returned to their jobs. Fox never cashed the check and has not been issued another, according to both sides.
At about 1 p.m. Monday, Trustees Derrick Burgess and David Hanks told Fox he needed to leave the police station. Fox declined, saying Towers — and not the trustees — had the authority to make that call.
Burgess pressed the matter, saying, “You’re not God.”
The trustees asked nearby police officers to remove Fox, but the officers did not respond.
Fox then got into his police car and left, saying he was “going out to lunch” and promising to return.
“This is all hoopla. Let the judge handle it,” Fox said, referring to the suit Towers filed last month in Cook County Circuit Court challenging the limitations to his appointment powers. A ruling is expected this month.
After Fox left, the trustees had all the locks changed at the police department.
Fox said he returned to the station later in the day and found out about the changed locks when he telephoned an officer inside. Fox said he planned to get a set of keys Monday night from Towers so he could show up and attend meetings Tuesday morning.
“You say, ‘Chief, why do you stay?’ ” Fox said to a reporter. “It’s the principle. The principle is the mayor looked at my resume, my qualifications, my prior jobs and experience and said I’d be a good fit for department, and I feel I am. Now I get here and some trustees disagree with that.”
Fox claimed the trustees lacked the executive powers to remove him from his position.
“That’s outside of their checks and balances,” Fox said.
Burgess disputed that Fox returned to the station after lunch. He said Turner, the village manager, has been told to collect all village-owned property from Fox on Tuesday.
“He won’t be acting as chief, and I don’t know what meetings he’ll be going to,” Burgess said. “We don’t recognize him as a chief.”
Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Counsel Assistant Director Ralph Nikischer, who was at the police station Monday, doesn’t want officers caught in the middle of the political fight.
“My feeling is the politicians need to iron this out,” he said.