Saturday, December 14, 2013

Amati matter - WPD and NWH. Who failed?

On October 28th the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) held a Special Meeting to consider the now widely-publicized activities of Sgt. Chip Amati, 24-year veteran of the Woodstock Police Department (WPD).

Under the Open Meetings Act a Special Meeting, unless called on an emergency basis, requires a 48-hour notice. Under normal circumstances I believe the notice would be sent to those with a need or a desire to know, such as local newspapers. Thus, this Notice should have gone at least to the Northwest Herald and to The Woodstock Independent.

If it did, and if recipients had bothered to read it, wouldn't their ears have perked up? Wouldn't they have been curious why a Special Meeting was being called? Wouldn't they have read the Agenda for the Special Meeting? They could have read it online, without putting down their coffee cups.

II.                   Executive Session

Personnel 5ILCS 120/2(c)(1)
The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity.

5ILCS 120/2(c)(4)
Evidence or testimony presented in open hearing, or in closed hearing where specifically authorized by law, to a quasi-adjudicative body, as defined in this Act, provided that the body prepares and makes available for public inspection a written decision setting forth its determinative reasoning.

III.                Action on matters discussed in Executive Session regarding Sgt. Charles V. Amati

Forty-eight hours before that Monday's 5:00PM meeting that the Notice had to be given, in order to comply with the Illinois Meetings Act. In other words, not later than 5:00PM on Saturday. Did the City give that Notice on Saturday, when business offices of the newspapers would have been closed? Or did the City give the Notice on Friday and, if so, at what time?

In any event, did reporters read it? Weren't they curious about a "complaint" and "evidence"?

The first public awareness of the discipline of Amati was a morning article in the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, November 27. Then, at 2:55PM, Police Chief Lowen emailed all WPD employees about Amati.

Now, get this sentence in the first paragraph of Chief Lowen's email: "Attached is an article which was printed in this morning's Chicago Tribune. As is commonplace, the news reports on situations such as this do not include the whole story."

OK, what's your gut reaction to that statement? Like mine?

Chief Lowen learned of the allegations on August 22, after a complaint was made to an off-duty WPD Sergeant, who took the person to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department to file a complaint. Chief Lowen's email on October 10 to the Woodstock City Manager reads, in part: "The Sheriff's Office called me as they did not want to investigate the matter because they felt there were too close of connections with WPD and Sgt. Amati for the Sheriff's Office to investigate."

Is anyone else outraged that our expensive "best in the world", CALEA-certified Sheriff's Department feels the connections are too close? Who at the Sheriff's Department made that decision? Nygren? Zinke? Someone lower on the food chain? Who??? Trust me, it matters. It absolutely matters who made that decision!

Note that the Chief's Nov. 27 email to his officers and employees is more than four weeks after the BOFPC met. Chief Lowen would have been at the October 28th meeting. City Manager Stelford and Mayor Sager would have been informed immediately after that Special Meeting or first thing on the morning of October 29.

And nobody said a word until the Chicago Tribune cut loose with it on November 27.

If you expect more out of our City's elected and appointed officials, then be at this Tuesday's Woodstock City Council meeting. Tuesday, December 17, 7:00PM, City Hall, 121 W. Calhoun St., Woodstock. Don't just show up. Speak up during the Public Comment period.

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