Tuesday, December 17, 2013

City Council aggravated over Amati issue

The Woodstock City Council began an extended session tonight, when a large number of residents were on hand at the beginning of the meeting.

Chicago Tribune reporter Dan Hinkle was present, a Fox News reporter and a TV cameraman showed up, and reporters from The Woodstock Independent and Northwest Herald were present.

An early order of business was to amend the Agenda by adding an Executive Session. Later in the meeting it was clear that the Council intended to use that closed meeting to discuss the Sgt. Chip Amati matter.

A young woman and mother asked why the mental-health assessment recommended by the Illinois State Police had not been included in the discipline doled out to Sgt. Amati.

A Crystal Lake resident came to the meeting, well-prepared with a copy of an email reply to an out-of-state woman who had written to the City. He asked why the State Police had apparently accepted electronic devices from Amati without using a warrant to collect all devices. He commented that law enforcement knows that one habit of a sexual predator is to use some devices only for the purpose of communicating with victims. He expressed deep concern that the Illinois State Police might have missed some electronic devices.

Residents asked specific questions about the Board of Fire & Police Commissioners. Later, in response, Mayor Sager mentioned that BOFPC members must be Woodstock residents. The Board is to have three members by statute; currently, there is one vacancy. [Although no invitation was made for anyone to express interest in being appointed, if you are interested, contact the City Manager's office immediately.]

One resident pointed out that the supervisor of the Woodstock Police Department's LEADS system would have known that it was a felony to use the system for personal reasons. He asked for an investigation to determine whether there had been any other illegal use of the LEADS system.

One speaker was very direct in saying that Amati should no longer be a member of the Woodstock Police Department and that he should be charged with a felony.

Several speakers mentioned members of their own families in the 12-year-old range. One woman said she would re-think the advice she gave to her daughter about finding a cop on Halloween, if they had gotten separated.

One speaker referred to the Six Stages of Grooming and described it as a gradual, calculated process of drawing in a potential victim. I'm sure a search on Google will locate more information about grooming, if you are interested.

Six-to-eight members of the Anonymous group were present to lend support to those who are outraged by this incident.

Mayor Sager referred to Amati as a "previously-trusted" officer and said the Council will do its best to "bring a sense of rightness to a terrible situation." After the public comment period ended, the Mayor and each member of the Council spoke about their own feelings in this matter. They are not happy campers!

Mayor Sager and City Attorney Richard Flood explained that, under Illinois law, the City cannot just fire a police officer. Only the Board of Fire & Police Commissioners can do that. (You can thank your State legislators for that one.)

I remember an early Coffee with the Chief that Chief Lowen had, when many residents from the First & Wheeler neighborhood showed up to complain about speeders, stop-sign violators, loud music from cars, etc. They grabbed the meeting. Later the residents got tired and the meetings turned into "educational" meetings. Maybe the January Coffee with the Chief will be an opportunity for residents again to be heard.

The City Council was scheduled to go into Executive (Closed) Session tonight, and I believe it will be for the purpose of discussing Sgt. Amati. Because this Executive Session was added to the Agenda tonight, the Council cannot take action on anything discussed in the closed meeting.

My recollection is that the City Council typically does not meet on the first Tuesday in January. (Last year they did hold a Special Meeting on January 9, and it was for an Executive Session. That was a meeting for a personnel issue involving the hiring of a new City Manager.

The City Council may not address the Amati issue further until its regular January meeting on January 21 at 7:00PM. My guess is they will call a Special Meeting and avoid a delay.

1 comment:

firecop said...

As a former Police Commissioner, let me say to you and everyone: This issue is DEAD!!! Sgt Amati has been investigated by ISP, charges were brought to BoPFC, as well as the SA in two different jurisdictions, of which neither chose to pursue charges. Sgt Amati had his "day in court" and cooperated fully with the investigation, to which a 30 suspension was handed down, to be served not at his leisure as everyone purports, but at the discretion of Chief Lowen.

To say that the City Council Closed Session was to discuss Amati, is premature and most likely a Violation of IL Open Meeting Act. They can only go into Closed Session to discuss personnel to effect of discipline or firing, which has already been done, and the City Council has no legal jurisdiction to fire Sgt Amati.

I do not support Sgt Amati's conduct, as it blackens the reputation of all good police officers. His suspension v. termination must have some other information that the public is not being told. I recall a poster on McHenryCountyBlog posting that SIM card had been swithched between mother and daughter. Maybe ISP found this to be true and text was ment for mom, and 30 days was in fact for LEADS violation. Who knows?

It's done and nobody can legally intervene at this point due to appeal time and the person who would appeal either Sgt Amati or Chief Lowen accepted the finding.