Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BOFPC to meet April 6

The Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, April 6, 2009, at 5:00PM in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 121 West Calhoun Street, Woodstock.

The Board will finally hold an "open" meeting - one where you don't have to go through a locked door into the inner sanctum and be escorted to a second floor conference room in a secure part of a public building.

Won't it be nice if all future meetings of the BOFPC are held at City Hall, as are, I believe, all other meetings of City Boards and Commissions?

Let's listen carefully after the Board re-convenes in open session after its Executive Session. That's when they vote on any Motion to take action against any member of the police department. They can "discuss" any personnel issue in private, but they must vote in public.

Of course, that isn't how it was done on March 2, according to Minutes. And the question still remains in my mind about the March 12 meeting. Although the Minutes reflect that Commissioner Larry Howell made a motion that was then voted on 3-0, I have no recollection of that Motion and vote.

Sure wish there was a tape of that open session!

Next time there will be a tape, because I'll have it. Under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, open portions of public meetings can be recorded.

"(5 ILCS 120/2.05) (from Ch. 102, par. 42.05) Sec. 2.05. Recording meetings. Subject to the provisions of Section 8‑701 of the Code of Civil Procedure, any person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means. The authority holding the meeting shall prescribe reasonable rules to govern the right to make such recordings."

Sexual Harassment - tolerated?

The following email, received from an employee of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, describes why employers get sued and why employers lose lawsuits. The examples are grounds for lawsuits that will cost the Sheriff's Department huge money for legal defense (which will lose) and settlements (which plaintiffs will win) that will cost us (taxpayers) money that could have been used to "protect and serve".

A word of caution to some readers. You may find some of the language offensive. If you have tender eyes, this would be a good place to stop reading. I have no doubt whatsoever that this kind of language is heard within the confines of the McHenry County Government Center. Those using such language should be so harshly disciplined that they would never even think of using such language again.

"Since the sexual harassment revelations made such a big splash I will expand on it. One sergeant has been investigated for sexual harassment so many times it will make your head spin. Comments such as 'her tits aren't all that great", "she has cankles, you know calves that go right to her ankles", "don't bother she doesn't give head", get tossed around frequently in the patrol room. I've also heard at the range that when the female deputies and corrections officers are wearing civilian clothes that the range officers comment on how the sweat marks from the bullet proof vest outline their breasts. Be careful ladies there are some sick puppies working in this place. And at the PBPA meetings with alcohol present, forget it. Certain women have nicknames like "Bubbles". In Narcotics one female was tossed out because "women are too catty to work together." I guess the less "catty" one got to stay in Narcs. And ladies even if you haven't slept with the entire department, the guys say you have. Sgt. P, Sgt S. and Lt. M. are the biggest mack daddies in the world. If you believe a word they say. I guess the EEO has her big girl panties on, UP OVER HER EARS!! You would have to be deaf to not hear these things. I guess if you don't want to hear them or you scare people into forgetting they heard them, there is nothing to report."

Claim denied due to falsified report

I've written several times about Lisa Jarva, a McHenry County resident whose car was hit by a deputy last summer and who has not yet been paid for the damage to her car.

The accident occurred on July 13, 2008.
The crash was investigated by a sheriff's sergeant - not by an outside police agency, which is usually the case.
The initial crash report listed the deputy at fault.
The deputy screamed.
The sergeant changed the report and put the woman at fault.
The falsified report was delivered to the woman and she was told the report was wrong.
The County's 3rd party claims administrator refuses to pay the claim, based on the falsified report.
The Sheriff's Department refuses to correct the report.
The Sheriff does not respond to the woman's letter.

If those involved had any guts, the report would have been corrected the very next day. You bite the bullet. You fix it. You go on. The issue dies.

I've heard from many deputies who are incensed over the handling of that crash report.

Should it be necessary for Lisa Jarva to get a lawyer and sue the County? Her claim should have been paid in August. Now it's the end of March and she still hasn't been paid. Not even close.

If the Sheriff's Department covers up a claim for $5,600 in vehicle damage and stonewalls a County resident with silence, what will it take to shake things up?

As with many things, there is a lot more to the story, such as why the deputy had stopped a motorist there in the first place. And why there were three other squad cars stopped on the shoulder there. And why they had stopped the particular cars they did. And how close they were to an event near Richmond where liquor had been sold all day, without a permit and without arrests for illegal liquor sales.

Just the fax, my friend

Where does it end?

The mail keeps coming; the emails keep coming; the faxes, the phone calls. Well, I don't want it to end. Wait! There is a place I'd like for it to end. I'd like the abuses, the lies, the targeting of County residents to stop.

If deputies are ordered to do something (or not to do something), they'd better do it (or not do it). It's called "following orders." What's the penalty if they don't? The lightest penalty might be a duty re-assignment; something akin, perhaps, to the midnight shift at the Chicago Stockyards, except we don't have the stockyards in McHenry County. The harshest penalty? How about termination "for cause"? The cause? Insubordination. Failing to follow direct orders of a superior. (I've had a little personal experience with termination "for cause", after I refused to sign a consent form that a past employer was demanding that I sign. A year later a Federal law was passed, preventing employers from demanding that which I had refused.) Back to a local situation.

No matter that the orders never should have been given in the first place! The "something" I'm talking about the something that is wrong, improper, illegal or unethical.

Let's say that some senior deputy - one with authority - had a personal grudge against a neighbor. Is it the proper use of his law enforcement authority to order his subordinates (let's say, patrol deputies) to "sit on" that person and watch his every move until he commits some violation and then pounce on him? What if the deputy so ordered must abandon his other duties to follow that order by devoting hours to parking in the neighborhood and waiting for a minor violation to occur?

I remember a couple of nice cops in downtown Denver who wanted to ticket the luxury cars of political big wigs that were parked on the sidewalk and in the no parking zone in front of a well-known eatery just off Larimer Square. I heard them say to the dispatcher over the police radio one night, "We can't ticket those cars. The captain told us not to ticket them." Now that just about got them the "stockyards" assignment in Denver, and Denver did have a stockyards! After persistence on my part (and that was back in 1981), they told me that they could ticket those cars, but only if I called first. So I called every night.

Were the tickets just dumped in the trash? I doubt they ever got paid. But at least they got written.

But back to the topic. What can a deputy do after he is ordered to do something that he knows is wrong? What if he likes his job? What if he needs his job? What if he just wants to do the job that he was hired to do? You know, enforce the laws of the County, the State, the USA. Fairly and impartially. To protect and to serve (the public, that is).

The deputy given such orders has little choice, whereas he should have every choice. He should be able to take his complaint about such orders up the food chain at the department and be heard. Without fear of retaliation. Without wondering whether he'll become the next Serpico and get hung out to dry on a difficult call.

OK, deputies, tell me what your real choices are?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Open the door & let 'em in

It couldn't be, could it?

Is it possible that 81 ICE detainees were moved out of the McHenry County Jail over the week-end, so their noses couldn't be counted when ICE was going to pay a visit today?

Well, that's the rumor. And some will know whether it's true or not.

How could you possibly adjust records to pull a total headcount down by 81? And what if they come right back?

Wouldn't it be interesting to compare the timing of headcount changes over the past few days between the McHenry County Jail and the Kane County Jail? would reveal an interesting and temporary change in numbers.

It is my understanding that prisoners/inmates are taken into the jail through a driveway off the parking lot at the front of the building. The driveway leads back to a gate that slides open and closed. By driving a patrol car or other vehicle (let's say, a van or a bus) into the secure area behind the gate, the opportunity for an escape or break-out is drastically reduced.

When delivering a prisoner to the jail, the driver rolls up the driveway, stops at the gate, waits for it to be opened, and then drives through and pulls around in a left U-turn to enter an enclosed area not visible to the street or parking lot in front of the jail. Not bad planning.

Between about 5:19PM and 5:50PM three white, unmarked, passenger vans arrived at the jail and entered the drop-off area through the sliding gate.

Then, at 6:03PM the McHenry County Sheriff's Department "school" bus No. 715 arrived at the Jail. The driver approached from Russel Court and stopped temporarily along the side of the courthouse near the jail driveway. A deputy stepped off the bus and watched the bus as its driver backed into the driveway and positioned the bus near the front of the building. And there the bus sat, with the headlights on and presumably with the engine running. The deputy on foot appeared to speak through an intercom unit, and then he walked back and forth on the front of the building.

And then, about 7:34PM the man-door next to the overhead door opened, and the "passengers" on the bus began exiting the bus and entering the jail building through the solid front door near the driveway. Several, but not all, had on orange jumpsuits. They were kept at even intervals and seemed to be walking with difficulty. I was not close enough to see for sure, but I would guess that each wore leg irons.

What would explain such a breach in security?

First of all, why were they kept on the stopped bus from 6:03PM-7:34PM? Is there a bathroom on a schoolbus? When did they get their dinner?

And, most importantly, why were they admitted to the jail building through a front door just a short walking distance from the bus?

I was glad I didn't see a scene straight from Prison Break. I could imagine a scenario where an armed gang showed up, took control of the front of the jail, rescued certain inmates, shot up the rest and fled. And I don't even watch TV.

As local folks know, the McHenry County Jail is directly across the street from three schools. Tonight the parking lot at one of the schools was full. Was the public placed at some risk by holding a busload of prisoners at the front of the jail building for 90 minutes with only one deputy on foot?

At one point some people on foot approached him, and he directed them to the jail entrance farther north. OK, so they were probably there to visit an inmate or perhaps to bail someone out. But what if they had had another purpose, when they approached so closely to him? How easy it would have been to disarm him and seize the scene.

Why did the jail personnel hold the prisoners on the bus until right at dark (7:34PM)? Hmmm, sunset was at 7:18PM. It was getting pretty dark at 7:30PM. Did that have something to do with it?

Have a n(ICE) day

Rumor has it that an inspection will be made today of the ICE unit at the McHenry County Jail. Among concerns are the over-crowding conditions that could create a very unsafe condition for both inmates and jailers. Generally, inmates will outnumber guards, but what about in the recreational areas? How many prisoners might there be in one rec area, and how many guards are there? Are all the guards bi-lingual? Are disturbances (oh, all right... fights) reported to the public? How many guards (jailers; employees) have been injured in physical conflicts within the Jail?

What happens when you put too many people in too small a space and keep them for too long with too little to do? Care to guess what happens when you get a match too close to gasoline?

The ICE unit is a huge money-maker for McHenry County. One figure that I have heard bounced around is $1,500,000/year. Does anyone really know just how many detainees are being held in the ICE unit and how long they are being held?

Let's say that a person (and let's say he just happens to be of brown skin and Latino surname) is stopped and arrested for no valid driver's license. When he goes to court, the judge tells him (and all in the courtroom) that, if he is convicted and if he is in this country illegally, he is subject to deportation. (And at least one judge does, in fact, say this in his courtroom.)

The judge finds him guilty of the driver's license violation and fines him $75 plus court costs ($150?). Pay and go? Ah, but wait. There's that sticky deportation issue.

Instead of being released, the defendant is sent off to the lock-up. And there he sits - possibly for months. The benefit to McHenry County? $80-100/day income for EACH day this guy is locked up.

How do many of the "No Valid" arrests get made? Suppose a deputy sees a Latino-appearing driver pass by. He runs the license plate through the in-car computer and sees that there is no driver's license information attached to the vehicle registration. Then he makes a traffic stop. The driver, who might or might not be the owner of the vehicle, might or might not be able to present a valid driver's license.

In the absence of a moving violation and probable cause to make the traffic stop, is the stop valid? Is it legal? What if the driver isn't the owner of the vehicle? But this driver doesn't know all the nuances of the law and can't afford an attorney for a traffic violation.

What if the judge ordered electronic monitoring at $13-15/day, instead of locking up the person whose fine and court costs amount to less than $300? I guess he wouldn't be too popular with the financial people running the jail. But judges usually aren't in popularity contests, anyway.

Would inmate density be lower at the McHenry County Jail, if electronic monitor were ordered instead of confinement? What is the design capacity for the ICE unit at the McHenry County Jail and how many prisoners are being held? Not the average per day, mind you. The actual numbers.

And how many detainees from other jurisdictions are we housing? Kind of gives new meaning to "If you build it, they will come", doesn't it? How many are being held who were transferred here to the McHenry County Hotel? And how long are they being held? Their confinement might bring an element to and through Woodstock as visitors whom we would rather not have here.

This information is hard to get, because phone calls to the person reportedly in charge of releasing information are not returned. Ahhh, there is always the FOIA Request.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Driving the wagon

Yesterday I received a nice call, thanking me for saying what needs to be said in McHenry County. You're welcome. My fax is on now, so keep sending me the "good stuff."

The following email was received from yet one more disgrunted deputy. Why would a deputy be disgruntled, instead of being an employee satisfied with conditions at the workplace?

"I know a deputy his name is Ed. Ed is the kind of guy you would want backing you up on pretty much anything. There is a problem with Ed though, he's in exile. Ed has been reduced to driving a van that resembles a ice cream truck with the Sheriff's Department logo on the side. Why was Ed exiled? Ed spoke his mind. Ed was honest. Ed wouldn't be bullied. Ed told a certain Under Sheriff that he would never be the leader that a man named Ron Salgado is. Ed spoke his mind at other times too. Ed was absolutely right and no one cares about that. When you see Ed driving by in the Sheriff's ice cream truck give him a wave and think...I could have been safer if Ed was in a squad car.

"Did you know there are certain State's Attorney investigators that are not allowed to enter the Sheriff's Department confines at the courthouse. The Sheriff has banned these investigators for various reasons. Mainly because they are ex-deputies that wouldn't be bullied."

Protest at Jack Franks' Office

Saturday's protest at Rep. Jack Franks' (D-63) Woodstock office drew groups protesting on two issues.

For a full report, go to http://www.mchenrycountyblog.com/

Cal Skinner would like to be in contact with the man pictured in this photo.

Please contact me at gus@woodstockadvocate.com and I'll help you connect with Cal.
Added 3/31/09: Photo credit: www.mchenrycountyblog.com (used with permission)

New ISP Director - laugh or cry

When I heard on Star 105.5 news last week about a new Director at the Illinois State Police, I was anxious to learn who he might be. The former director, Larry Trent, was really good about ignoring emails and other communications from me. When I asked repeatedly if the troopers had been ordered to obey speed limits when they were just driving down the road (and not chasing anyone), no answer ever came to five years of questions. So I assumed the answer to be "No, they had not been so ordered."

So, who is the new guy? Hang onto your hats!

Jonathan E. Monken was appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Just wait until you read his high qualifications for the position. If you wait to read them, you'll have a long wait.

Monken is 29 years old. Where did he get sufficient leadership and management experience in seven short years since college to lead the second largest police department in the State of Illinois? Oh, did I mention his extensive police background? I didn't? That's because he doesn't have any. Not a-n-y.

In the press release issued by Gov. Quinn's office, three leadership positions are listed:

1. Company Commander - responsible for leadership, training, and welfare of 120 cadets
2. Battalion Command Sergeant major - cadet sergeant in charge of 500 cadets
3. Regimental Executive Officer, CFT - 2nd in command of 1,200 cadets for advanced field training

Get it? Cadets, cadets, cadets.

Oh, and "awards"? 2005 American Red Cross Illinois "Hometown Hero" Award Winner for Fox Valley.

About all I can ask is, "What the heck was Gov. Quinn thinking about when he appointed a young man with no business background, no apparent financial background (started on his Masters last June), no police background?" Whom else did Pat Quinn consider?

Why would some troopers spend a career with the Illinois State Police, go through tens of thousands of dollars worth of training and schools to be prepared to move up and fill a vacancy from in-house, and then see the governor tap someone out of the blue for the position as top dog at State Police headquarters? Let's see Quinn explain this one!

Word is that Illinois State Police troopers are upset! One referred to "anguish over this appointment."

Want to read the press release for yourself? Click here: http://illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=9&RecNum=7425

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How are our officers trained?

As I drove to the hospital in Woodstock this morning, I recalled an afternoon in Colorado when I had stopped a woman motorist who had been driving erratically and fast. When I pulled her over, she was crying so hard that she couldn't talk clearly.

She explained that she was rushing to the bedside of a relative who was dying; I've forgotten what relative - that had to be back in about 1977. But I remember the stop and the exact location. I hadn't thought of it for quite a number of years.

I recall being firm with her about getting herself under control or she wouldn't ever make it to that bedside. She took some deep breaths and got herself under control, and I sent her on her way. I don't recall that I even asked her for her license.

And then tonight I received an email from a friend in Woodstock about a Dallas cop and a traffic stop he made on a family rushing to a hospital bedside. The sender's comment was, "MCSD is loaded with guys like this."

Read this article - http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/032609dnmetcopstop.3e9c080.html?nTar=OPUR

End-of-Life Discussion

It was almost a year ago that I attended a workshop at MCC about Advance Directives and wrote about the importance of planning. And not just planning, but also doing.

A friend now may be facing the Great Trip. Over the past few weeks she had not been feeling well. I'll tell you this. When you aren't feeling well, tell your doctor. And tell your doctor in a way that your doctor "gets" it. And, if your doctor doesn't "get" it the first time, tell your doctor again! And, as nice as nurses in doctor's offices are, see the doctor! Don't rely on the nurse to relay your health concerns to the doctor; you see the doctor, even if you have to be mean about insisting on seeing the doctor face-to-face!

So a CT scan was scheduled. A large tumor in the colon was found. (The natural question, which no one is asking, is, "Why wasn't it found before it was 'large'?"

Two days later the doctor ordered the patient to the hospital, and last Friday she was admitted. On Monday a colonoscopy was performed, and on Tuesday colon surgery was done.

And then early Wednesday she was moved to the ICU due to low blood pressure. Then she had a heart attack, and that attack affected her kidneys. Things did not look good at all. Today she was looking better but cannot speak because of a breathing tube. Medical advice regarding the kidneys will come soon.

What does all this have to do with Advance Directives? Good planning is not only getting the forms prepared and signed, but it involves having "the conversation" with the person who will hold the Power of Attorney (POA) regarding end-of-life decisions.

Now I know you can't make people sit down and say, "Listen, if this happens, this is exactly what I want you to do. You will not be making the decision. I am making the decision. And I'm making it now - for then. All you have to do is carry out my wishes. And, if you don't, I am going to come back and haunt you!"

Holding a POA is an awesome responsibility. When you hold it, you don't want to use it too soon, and you don't want to wait too long.

Recently a wise young man told me that he would appoint two people to make the decision. But what if one says "Yes" and the other says "No". Stalemate! I suggested it's better to pick just one, and pick the one you trust to make the right call at the right time, with compassion and love for you.

If you haven't written your Will and Advance Directives, get with it now. And, if you have, pull them out and read them. Do they still reflect your wishes? Are the people named as Executor and/or Guardian still the people of first choice?

Sit down with your attorney for a quick legal check-up. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, and it doesn't have to cost a lot.

Or sit down with an advocate or other knowledgeable person who can review your documents with you, run through the what-if's, and push you to your attorney if your documents need updating.

WPD denies FOIA request (2/18 at USPS)

On February 18th at about noon there was a significant police response to the Post Office in Woodstock. Two officers and a sergeant were there, and a third officer was driving through the parking lot behind Walgreen's. See the article written that day by scrolling through the February postings or just search for "Post Office" on this site.

Clearly, something was going on.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the police department and promptly denied, with two reasons cited:

1) "Information, if disclosed would constitute clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of the information;" and

2) "Information revealing the identity of the persons who file complaints with or provide information to administrative, investigative, law enforcement or penal agencies."

Certainly, the police department could have provided a copy of the report of this crime or incident by redacting the name and address, along with any other identifying personal information.

An appeal to the denial was filed with the City Manager, who denied the appeal for the same reasons, in spite of my suggestion that the police department redact the individual name.

What's my option now?

Proceed with the hassle and the expense of an appeal to the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, McHenry County. If I were media with advertising and subscription dollars, that court action would be filed tomorrow morning.

OK, so I can guess what would happen. Even if I took the time and spent the money to file for "further review" of my request and the two denials at the Circuit Court, the City would then flood (no slight of the City Attorney is intended) me with Motions to suppress my request, further running up my bill for legal advice and services.

Clearly, some police matter was happening at the Post Office. The man didn't just get dizzy or drop his wallet or wander away from a caregiver. That would not require three officers and a sergeant. One officer could handle that type of call. Or so we would hope.

NWH Editorial Supports Judge McIntyre

This morning's editorial in the Northwest Herald supports Judge McIntyre's decision Tuesday in the case of Lowen v. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

Here's what I wonder.

Judge McIntyre read about the case. The Board heard testimony - directly. They listened to Chief Lowen and they listened to his witnesses.

Then the three-man Board voted that the chief had not made his case.

I recall an example given to me years ago that clarified the difference between reading about something, compared with actually doing that thing (in other words, being there). I'm flipping a coin right now to decide whether to relate that exact comparison.


Oh, sorry. Tails. I'll leave the comparison to your imagination.

Open Letter to Woodstock City Council - Traffic

Following is an open letter that I have emailed this morning to the Woodstock mayor and members of the City Council:

Mr. Mayor and Members of the City Council,

Please read the Car and Driver article published on msn.com at http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=948333&topart=luxury This describes the exact issue that I raised at the recent City Council meeting.

What knowledge do you have of the decision of Chief Lowen to drastically increase the number of traffic tickets being issued by his officers through "traffic initiatives"? "Other traffic arrests" were up 51% from January 2009 to February 2009.

Was Chief Lowen ordered by the City Manager to pursue this risky plan? Did the Council order the City Manager to increase revenues by traffic ticket enforcement?

Are you getting (or should you be getting) reports, perhaps weekly, on the number of traffic tickets being issued for all traffic violations, not just the broad category of "Other traffic arrests"?

Have we developed a "speed trap" mentality here, but more broadly applied to all traffic violations, not just speeding?

Have officers been ordered to ticket only and ordered not to exercise discretion to issue warnings where warranted?

If a police officer commits a traffic violation, will another officer cite him?

How much revenue is being forecast?

Will traffic tickets be heard in the new Administrative Adjudication Court being established in Woodstock?

I shall approach you in person at a City Council meeting with these questions and trust that answers will be provided.


Gus Philpott

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

HB48 Defeated – Franks voted Yes

House Bill 48 was defeated in the Illinois House of Representatives today. This bill would have required private handgun transfers, even between Illinois FOID cardholders, to be conducted through Federal Firearms Licensees. For a fee, of course. Probably for several fees and charges.

The vote was 55-60-1.

How did Rep. Jack Franks (D-63rd) vote? Jack voted for HB 48.

This vote explains several things to me.

The gushiness of Jack’s Woodstock employee in proclaiming Jack’s “pro-gun” stance that isn’t that at all. It further explains Jack’s unwillingness to explain his position against concealed carry in Illinois.

Jack just does not trust honest gun owners. This is the bottom line. Jack does not have the faith in his fellow human beings that I do. Well, in the honest ones, anyway.

For $35.00 anyone can be a member of the NRA. You don’t have to subscribe to its policies or platform. You can spend your $35 and then try to fool your constituents by saying you are “a member of the NRA” and trying to avoid answering a direct question about gun owner rights.

The sheriffs in Illinois have finally awakened to the fact that concealed carry does reduce crime. Will the police chiefs of Illinois follow?

If McHenry County residents want Illinois to join the other 40+ states that permit law-abiding and qualified residents to carry concealed weapons, I guess we are going to have to “retire” Jack and elect a different State Rep from the 63rd District.

When is the next election?

More Traffic Tickets = More Revenue!

At last week's Woodstock City Council meeting I beat up pretty hard on the police department for its substantial increase in traffic tickets.

And what shows up on MSN.com News today?

Read this article! It describes exactly what is happening in Woodstock. A crackdown on tickets. Officers' writing tickets, here at least for relatively petty infractions, just to "produce" income for the City.

Is this something we want? Will we put up with it?

As I drove around today, I realized that I was probably jabbing Chief Bob Lowen a little too hard. While he is the enforcer (err, chief) at the P.D., he gets his orders from Tim Clifton, the City Manager. And Tim gets his orders from the Mayor, with the City Council behind him.

But I have never heard traffic enforcement and revenue-generation discussed at a City Council meeting, have you?

So where did this crackpot idea come from? For the little bit that dribbles back to the City from fines and/or court costs, is it fair to slam a driver with a $75 ticket and possible $150 in court costs, just so the City can collect a few dollars?

Those who know me, know that I am a proponent of fair, firm, impartial law enforcement.

When the Woodstock Police Department tickets a couple of drivers who forget to signal their right turns, where they have nothing to do but turn right, but a couple of years ago failed to ticket a deputy sergeant who ran a stop sign and hit a car driven by a young man who just happened to be the son of one of the members on the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, is there something wrong with how traffic violations are enforced in Woodstock?

By the way, that one never made it to the newspapers. Or if it did, it never got published.

OK, so I'm comparing something old with something new. I'll admit it.

Here's how we get this nonsense stopped. It won't stop just because I wrote an article. It won't stop if only two or three people complain to the City - I mean, to the City Manager or to the Mayor. It will stop if several dozen or 100 people show up at one City Council meeting and claim their right to three (3) minutes of time at the microphone. Just imagine 100 speakers at three minutes each. Add in a little travel time from the seats to the microphone, and the City Council will be there 5+ hours.

Insist on no break! Make them sit there and take it. Think they'd get the message that the People are not going to put up with having the police department become a profit center for the City?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jack Franks vs. concealed carry

This afternoon I dropped by Rep. Jack Franks’ office and was greeted by one of his very friendly office employees, Joanne.

When I asked where Jack stood on concealed carry, she was almost profuse in her explanation of Jack’s position. He’s a FOID cardholder. He’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He’s an avid hunter!

Sound familiar. I figured that she was the same office person with whom I had spoken by phone on about March 12. Hers is a scripted response and was almost word-for-word what she had told me 12 days ago.

“And he’s not in favor of concealed carry,” she said.

When I asked why not, she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me. She suggested I email my question to Jack. That’s when I showed her the copy of my email to him on March 12, which I had been assured I would receive a reply to. And which has gone unanswered.

After we had talked for 2-3 minutes, she acknowledged my strong position and said that I certainly have a lot of faith in my fellow man. Yes, indeed, I do. I told her that I would defend her child and her, if I saw them being robbed or carjacked or if a gunman burst into Jack’s office.

I asked again for the basis for Jack’s refusal to consider concealed carry positively, and I offered to provide facts that substantiate that more guns (ex., concealed) actually reduce crime.

She, unphased, asked if I would consider the opposite view. I replied that I would consider it, but she had nothing to offer. If she gives me all the Brady information, I’ll provide facts that refute their claims.

Jack, why are you against concealed carry? Is it because you have no faith that law-abiding, honest, FOID card-carrying, licensed, trained, responsible citizens can carry concealed weapons responsibly, as they do in about 40 States?

Joanne asked why I didn’t go to Chicago and try to change the minds of the legislators there. I told her that Jack is my elected representative, and my job is to change his mind. After that’s done, then I’ll go to Chicago and start on them.

Does anyone have suggestions for how to elicit reasons for positions from an elected representative?


When you know someone in the hospital or who is ill, tell them about www.CarePages.com

CarePages is a free website where "care pages" can be set up for those who are ill, whether or not they are hospitalized. Family and friends can post messages from their computers, and "managers" of the site can post photos.

If your relative or friend is in Memorial Medical Center, just be sure the manager doesn't select "Memorial Medical Center" for the hospital in Illinois; that Memorial Medical Center is in Springfield. Perhaps Centegra will join the bandwagon one day soon, so that its hospitals will be in the dropdown menu for hospitals.

Arrestee turns snitch, backs out

You know? It's not just one person who knows all this stuff. Thanks for the emails, the faxes and the phone calls.

Here's a recent one:

"A couple of years ago there was a good deputy named John. John was doing his job and found a guy with heroine. John made the arrest and turned the guy over to the Narcotics Division. The guy agreed to become a "snitch". Time passed and the "snitch" thing didn't work out so John wanted go through with the heroine charges and put this guy in jail. This guy had a rich, connected father. The father "donated" some money to the department and the guy wasn't charged. John was angry. John complained to some supervisors who are still in charge today. They told John to just play ball. John refused. Soon after John was under intense scrutiny for his report writing. He received some unjust discipline. John went to the outside agencies and reported what had happened. John, for his family's sake found another job and moved on. It's too bad. One good cop, gone. Bad cops, promoted! What happened to the guy with the heroine? He was arrested in Elk Grove Village soon after for HOME INVASION AND KIDNAPPING!!!!! Some little old lady was victimized. Thank you, McHenry County Sheriff's Department. (Players involved, Captain C., FBI, relative of a ASA, political campaign funds and others.) "

Judge McIntyre Rules!

At 9:06AM this morning Judge Maureen McIntyre called the case of Lowen v. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

She looked around the courtroom for lawyers to approach the bench. Seeing none, she handed some papers to her clerk.

I thought, “That’s it? Where are the lawyers?”

Here’s a case that was filed a year ago over a trivial, but legal, issue. And no lawyers are here?

After a few minutes I asked the bailiff if I could read the Decision. While he was finishing other business, I spotted a familiar face and, a few minutes later, left the courtroom and watched a hallway conversation between Sgt. Steve Gorski, his father and one of his attorneys.

What did Judge McIntyre decide in this case that was filed a year ago? You may recall the issue. The Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners told Chief Lowen that he had not made his case. Sgt. Gorski’s lawyer asked for a directed verdict in Gorski’s favor. And that’s what the Board decided.

Apparently, the City’s attorney did not object at the time. But they figured out later that they might make a case for the Board’s having made its decision in, in their opinion, an incorrect manner. And so they filed for an Administrative Review.

OK, so the judge sided with them. What does this mean?

The case goes back to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. The Board has already heard the chief’s case. The chief rested his case a year ago. He should not have any opportunity to present more testimony or information. He’s all done.

Where will the Board pick up? Right before its decision to issue a directed verdict? What will it do? The Board could call Sgt. Steve Gorski, and then he has choices. He could say he has nothing to say. The Board has heard the chief’s case. It should decide exactly as it did before. And the Board could rule that the City is to pay Sgt. Gorski all his back pay. It’s not just one year’s back pay; now it is TWO years’ back pay.

Or Sgt. Gorski could testify. He could provide his name and rank and then say he has nothing further to offer. And the Board will make the same decision.

Or he could re-state the facts of the case and how he was placed in a Catch 22 situation when he was required to sign a statement presented by the chief that said he could not take certain medications but he COULD take any drugs prescribed by his doctors! Now, just how do you do that? And if you do take drugs prescribed by your doctors but they happen to be on the chief’s Don’t Take list, you’re in deep manure. And that's just where he found himself.

How quickly will the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners meet? They must give 48 hours’ notice, so they could meet on Friday at 5:00PM and finish off this matter.

By the way, the Board should order the Police Department and the City of Woodstock to reinstate Gorski’s health insurance which, I understand, the City canceled in October!

What a great way to treat a 19-year employee who has suffered two on-the-job injuries!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

And yet there is more ...

Information continues to come to me about employment atmosphere at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. Like the following message:

"Let's talk Sexual Harassment.

"Over ten years ago McHenry County Sheriff's Department was sued for discriminating against women. I want to tell you not much has changed. A retired Captain was suspended for sexually harassing a Sergeant. There are currently 2 Sergeants who have been disciplined for saying inappropriate things to women. Captain C. of the patrol division can be heard using the "F-bomb" like a drunken sailor during his conversations with everyone including women.

"The SWAT team has a standing order to keep women from being accepted. (As a consolation prize women can be hostage negotiators.) I know what some are saying, "women shouldn't be on the SWAT team if they aren't as strong or physically able as the men." It's a good point and I agree, except that all the men on the SWAT team aren't stronger, faster or better shots than some of the women who have applied.

"The people who give women the hardest time in this department are supervisors. It is their lead that the rest of the deputies follow. It's not a matter of supervisors turning their head and ignoring problems, they are the problem. So who is supposed to help? The EEO? The EEO was hired because she is a friend of the Sheriff. She only investigates what she wants, and most deputies are afraid to tell her anything in fear that she will conduct a sub-par investigation and then turn it on the person complaining. Nobody wants to report anything to her, victims or offenders. She is a waste of taxpayer money.

"She spent a whole career as a Marine. How sensitive can she be to the problems of women? Someone whose sensitivity training comes from the armed forces has the sensitivity of a wildebeest.

"Plus she investigates things she has absolutely has no right investigating. She once conducted an investigation into the FOP lodge. Why? Because some of the "good old boys" wanted to join when they found out that the lodge was doing some worthwhile things. Problem was these "good old boys" had burnt their bridges with the members of the FOP lodge and they were denied membership. This is a private organization that has no obligation to accept anyone unless the members agree. The EEO was ordered by the "good old boys" to do an investigation. What authority does an EEO have to investigate an outside organization?

"First, she is not an investigator. Second, what could she possibly accomplish except to scare the members? AND THAT IS THE ONE AND ONLY REASON!!! Fear is intimidation and that is what the EEO does. That's what Marines are trained to do."

Did I err?

Last week I opined that the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commission had erred procedurally in suspending Officer Jim O'Doherty, because my recollection of the March 12th Special Meeting was that the Board had only stated its decision upon returning to open session, but had not voted in open session on a suspension.

Draft Minutes posted today on the Board's webpages indicate that they did vote on a Motion to suspend that was made during the public, open meeting after the Executive Session.

So maybe I did not recollect correctly. However, there is still a question in my mind, because I recall only the vote to adjourn. So I'll file a FOIA request to listen to the tape of the public portion of the meeting. And, if I can confirm that there was a vote on the suspension, I'll willingly withdraw my opinion and admit error.

Suspending a police officer is a serious matter.

On March 2 the BOFPC met in Executive Session for nine minutes to consider the suspension. I believe that Officer O'Doherty was not informed of the Agenda item, and he did not attend to speak on his own behalf.

On March 12 the BOFPC met in Executive Session for five (5) minutes. Again Officer O'Doherty was not present. Did he even know about the meeting?

At the March 12 Special Meeting the Board indicated that a hearing would be held today, March 23, "tentatively". Today is March 23. The BOFPC did not met.

A new Special Meeting has been posted on the BOFPC website for Monday, April 6, 5:00PM. Because the City does not state whose personnel matter is to be discussed in private, I'll speculate that the topic of the April 6th Special Meeting will be Officer O'Doherty.

And the place? Out in public. Finally. The BOFPC will meet at the City Council Chambers in City Hall. Anyone interested can attend without passing through a security door or being escorted to an interior conference room in a non-public area of a public building.

This is a huge step forward. Thank you to the City of Woodstock and the Police Department for creating a public meeting place for the City's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

It's nice to see a new line added to the Agenda for the April 6 Special Meeting. The new line reads, "Action on the matters discussed in executive session." This would be the Motion and Vote on action following a private personnel discussion.

Early Voting

Election Day - Tuesday, April 7

Early Voting - now through Thursday, April 2 (take your photo ID)

In Woodstock, go to the county government administration building, 667 Ware Road, 2nd floor.

Other parts of McHenry County? Put on your detective hat and discover your voting place. Or go to co.mchenry.il.us/countydpt/county clerk

Or you could do it the old-fashioned way by calling 815-334-4242.

Remember: "Vote Early & Vote Often"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

35-40MPH through red light!

It has been a long time since I have seen a driver intentionally run a red light at 35-40MPH, but now I can't say that. Now it has only been since 6:40PM. For a good look at the plate (CLOSER 5), click on the photo, then click on the Back button on your browser to come back here.

I was on my way to Memorial Medical Center to visit a patient, and traffic was slowing on eastbound U.S. 14 for a red light at the intersection by Culver's. Both lanes were stopped, and I watched a grey car coming up fast behind us. At first, I thought the driver might run through the left-turn lane, blow the red and continue on east. But that was not to be.

The driver cruised up the left-turn lane, which had no other cars in it, and blew the red left-turn light to turn left for Culver's. Gutsy, eh? What with the Woodstock PD traffic initiative this month, that should have been an easy pinch, had there been a Woodstock officer in the neighborhood.

I was able to turn onto the south frontage road, turn around, wait for a green to cross US 14 and pull into Culver's for this photo. Then I backed in across from this car to wait for the driver to come out, so that I could include her photo, too. The personalized license plate on the grey Mercedes-Benz S500 4-door sedan was "CLOSER 5". When time passed and she didn't come out of Culver's, I left and continued toward the hospital. As I drove on east on US 14, I saw her come out of Culver's with her to-go order. I "shoulda" waited.

She was definitely a woman in a hurry. If you see her coming up behind you, brace yourself! Or duck for cover, if she blows around you and runs another light. She is definitely going to wreck that Mercedes one day soon.

I say again, "People with personalized plates shouldn't drive like that!"

Island Lake Meet & Greet

The final meet & greet of the For A Better Island Lake team of five candidates in the April 7th local elections was held this afternoon in - where else? - Island Lake. Pictured (from left to right) are Dwaine Schaal, Greg Kachka, John Ponio and Laurie Rabattini.

Why did I go? I met Greg Kachka of "Don't Point Your Gun (Finger) at Me" fame last year. Greg was accused of Disorderly Conduct by Village Trustee and now Mayoral candidate Debbie Hermann and by the Village Clerk Christine Kaczmarek. The case was dismissed in Lake County Circuit Court in Waukegan, instead of continuing through the embarrassing ordeal of the Complainants' attempting to prove a losing argument. For details, search on this site for "Kachka".

Candidates for election in the Village of Island Lake are John Ponio, current Trustee and candidate for Mayor, and Greg Kachka, Laurie Rabattini and Dwaine Schaal for Village Trustees, and Mary Jo Martin for Village Clerk. (Sorry I didn't get your picture after you arrived, Mary Jo.)

For more about the efforts to improve Island Lake, go to www.4abil.com/ Mary Jo was Village Clerk for ten years and served over a year into the term of the current mayor, who is not running for re-election. She is a court watcher for AIMM and goes to DUI trials in Woodstock on Mondays and Thursdays.

John Ponio holds the elected position of Village Trustee now. When he is elected Mayor on April 7, he will resign as Trustee and, after he takes office, appoint a successor to serve out the balance of two years of his term.

Laurie videotapes Village meetings and publishes them at http://www.cbgil.com/

I have attended several Island Lake village meetings and believe these are candidates worthy to be elected. If you know anyone in Island Lake, please encourage them to vote for this slate AND to contact their Island Lake neighbors to vote for this slate, too.

They are working hard to be elected, and they will serve their community well. Good luck, candidates!

McHenry County Budget Surplus?

What does a full-page ad in the Northwest Herald cost?

March 20: McHenry County Recorder Phyllis K. Walters ran a full-page ad (Page 8B) touting the accuracy of County land records. Do we need her office to spend $7,000 (or whatever the cost is) to tell us this? Of course, the records are accurate. If they aren't, her office isn't doing its job!

March 22 (today): McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz ran a full-page ad (Page 8D). You'll love this - the first Fast Fact in the right-hand column is the number of years between 1837 and 2009: 172 years!

If all this extra money is just sitting around (how much more is being spent in ways like these?), how about a little property tax relief?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Suspension invalidated by procedural errors?

It is very possible that the recent suspension of Officer Jim O'Doherty of the Woodstock Police Department, and the subsequent suspension without pay, may be invalid.

The Board of Police and Fire Commissioners (BOFPC) of the City of Woodstock is subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act. This Board is a public body whose members are appointed by the Mayor, subject to the consent or approval of the City Council.

At any Regular or Special Meeting of the BOFPC the Board is permitted to go into Executive Session for the purpose of discussing personnel matters. At the Regular Meeting on March 2 and at the Special Meeting on March 12, the Board did so.

At the March 2nd meeting the Board was in Executive Session for only nine (9) minutes, and it suspended Officer O'Doherty. Chief Lowen was present at the March 2 meeting.

At the March 12th meeting the Board was in Executive Session for about the same length of time (the exact time in and out will be in the March 12th Minutes), and it acted to suspend Officer O'Doherty without pay. Chief Lowen did not attend the public portions of the March 12 meeting.

Now here's the kicker and it's an important one, because it may just invalidate the decisions made by the Board at both meetings.

Under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, the Board is permitted to discuss personnel situations in private - in Executive Session. However, it cannot make a final decision in private!

When the Board concludes its Executive Session, it returns to the open public meeting, and it is then that a Motion is to be made for any particular action and a vote is to be taken, and recorded by name, on the Motion.

I was not at the March 2 meeting, but the Minutes do not reflect any Motion to suspend or any vote by-name on such a Motion. The Minutes merely reflect that the Board exited from Executive Session at 5:19PM and adjourned at 5:26PM.

I was at the March 12 meeting, and it's my recollection that the Board exited from Executive Session and, because Northwest Herald reporter Brian Slupski and I were there, it announced its decision. I do not recall that any Commissioner made a Motion to suspend Officer O'Doherty without pay or any vote by the Commissioners on that issue.

It is my understanding from an attorney in the Illinois Attorney General's office that this violation of the Open Meetings Act presents a major problem for the Board and for the Woodstock Police Department, because a decision reached by the Board in private would have no legal effect without the public vote.

So, what's the next step? Chief Lowen should consider that Officer O'Doherty is an officer in good standing and order that he be paid all wages due him. He should continue on duty status until such further action as the Chief and the Board might take, if any.

One of the actions they might take is not to suspend Officer O'Doherty without allowing him the opportunity for a hearing on any request by the chief for suspension.

And the Board may, upon conducting a hearing to which every police employee of the City is entitled, decide that, in this case, suspension is not warranted. It needs to hear from Officer O'Doherty before reaching a decision!

"Innocent until proven guilty" is still the rule here. Or is it?

New Book on Iraq War

There is a new book on the Iraq War that I highly recommend. After hearing it discussed on NPR one day recently, I was able to check it out at the Woodstock Public Library with barely any delay.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas E. Ricks has written The Gamble - General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008.

Ricks' other books are Fiasco, Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty. He is a senior Pentagon correspondent at The Washington Post.

It seems to me that anyone engaging in discussion about the continuation of the war, surge of troops, and withdrawal from Iraq should read this book first. I would recommend it to every member of Congress (both parties) and to President Obama and his advisers.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flipping off a driver

There was a young woman in Crystal Lake today who just about earned herself at least two tickets this afternoon. For a good look at the license plate, click on the photo (then click on the Back button on your browser to come back here).

She tailgated me from about Pingree Road to Keith Avenue. By tailgating, I mean 1/2-car length behind me at 30-35MPH. Traffic was fairly heavy and I was in the right-hand lane, not in any particular hurry but maintaining a steady distance behind the car in front of me. Right-turning traffic caused the right lane to slow fairly often.

For many blocks this young woman could have safely passed. Instead, she got right on my bumper and stayed there. Nothing worked to get her off my bumper. I slowed a little and increased my distance a little from the car in front of me, but she stayed right there. I even hit the four-way flashers to alert her to her unsafe following distance. Tapping the brakes without slowing abruptly didn't work, either.

When the second car in front of me slowed to turn into a shopping center, I slowed and she threw up her arms, as if to say, "What the h- - -?" Where was I supposed to go?

When we approached the red light at Keith Avenue, she drove into the parking lot in front of Fannie May's and "waved" at me with that funny middle-finger salute; then she continued to an exit and drove north on Keith and into the parking lot by TJ Maxx. Cutting through commercial property to avoid a traffic signal was her second violation.

I already had her license plate (Illinois 885 3634, on a four-door, beige, Mercury Grand Marquis LS sedan) and was thinking about siccing the Crystal Lake Police on her, so I turned on Keith and drove into the TJ Maxx parking lot, making sure not to follow her within about half a block.

After she parked and left her car, I drove by it for this picture, for the record. I wonder how she would have explained her driving to a judge. "But, your honor, he should have gone faster." Yeah, sure...

Glitches in Illinois Open Meetings Act

There are at least a couple of glitches in the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA).

First of interest is the Notice that is required to be given to the public of a meeting of a body such as the City of Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC). The OMA requires Notice to be given in specified ways at least 48 hours before a meeting.

This is particularly tricky when a meeting is called for a Monday at 5:00PM. Do you count the week-end hours? Must notice be posted by Thursday at 5:00PM? Actually not. And not even by Friday at 5:00PM, although that's when it is posted. The law is 48 hours before the meeting.

So, if a secretary posted the Notice in the required places by 5:00PM on Saturday, the Notice would satisfy the OMA.

Could the legislators have worded it differently, to assure the public of two full business days of Notice. They certainly could have!

The second glitch pertains to Minutes of a meeting. The OMA speaks only about required publication of the Minutes within seven days after approval. But what if a public body sits on the Minutes and doesn't approve them?

This happened with the Minutes of the September 8, 2008, Regular Meeting of the BOFPC. The December 2008 meeting was canceled, so the Minutes did not get approved them. The Minutes were approved at the March 2, 2009, Regular Meeting of the BOFPC, six months after the September meeting!

Why is this significant? Because the BOFPC did not submit the dates for 2009 Regular Meetings to City Hall and the dates are not included in the Schedule of Meetings, as required by the OMA. The City will have to address this violation of the OMA and correct it.

The BOFPC has published the Minutes of the March 2, 2009, Regular Meeting as "Draft Minutes - to be approved at the June 1, 2009 meeting."

Why weren't the March 2nd Minutes approved at the first following meeting of the BOFPC, which occurred on March 12th? And when will the March 12th Minutes be available? And if the BOFPC meets on the "tentative" date of March 23 in the O'Doherty matter, will it approve the Minutes of the March 2nd and March 12th meetings? Or, if it doesn't meet on March 23 but meets early in April, will it approve the March 2nd and March 12th meetings then?

Minutes are probably typed up the next day. It probably takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare them, because large portions are boiler-plate.

There are huge problems lurking in the shadows around the March 2nd and March 12th meetings. More about this in another article soon.

What's it worth? (Viking Dodge R/E)

I've been watching the dwindling supply of new vehicles on the sales lot at Viking Dodge. The rows of cars are spaced more widely, and the vehicles are parked closer to the front of the property.

I've also been watching the activity involving the Crystal Lake Park District and was interested to read this morning that it has approved paying $6,290,000 for Viking Dodge's property at 680 W. Terra Cotta Ave. (IL 176), Crystal Lake, just east of U.S. 14, subject to four more months of "study."

That location was easily found on many days because of a grey Dodge Magnum parked on U.S. 14, pointing the way to Viking Dodge. Have you heard the latest radio ads for Viking Dodge? They offer $400 off to anyone who buys a car from Viking on a day when that grey "van" is there.

If you actually are going to buy a car from Viking, call me; I'll call Wayne in Marengo and tell him to hotfoot it over there. You can give him $100 of your $400 savings. You might talk to him first to get some money-saving tips that will help you save even more than $400. Or ask me.

Now, about the $6.29 Mill...

Last week I checked the tax bill for 680 W. Terra Cotta Ave. And the bill? The McHenry County property tax bill for 2007 was $80,325.

According to the bill, which can be viewed on the County Treasurer's webpages for PIN 14-31-251-001, the Fair Cash Value $3,339,624.

There is probably a really good reason for the Park District for pay $6,290,000 for a property that two years ago had a Fair Cash Value that was $3,000,000 lower. Are property values in McHenry County higher or lower than two years ago? If you don't know the answer, ask any property owner in the County.

The S/A Value $1,113,208. Since this is 1/3 of the Fair Cash Value, this must be the Assessed Valuation, to which the tax rate is applied.

Don't forget that McHenry County will lose $80,000/year in property taxes, if that sale goes through and the property comes off the tax rolls.

Should the Park District acquire some land that is already off the tax rolls?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Result of Thomas Haas' Case

Recently I wrote about the Cindy O'Grady civil rights lawsuit against the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, and then I wrote about what led up to it - the arrest of Thomas Haas on a weapons charge by the Crystal Lake Police Department.

When I went to the courthouse last week, I could not find a court record in the public computer there that indicated why Haas' case was Nolle Prossed (dismissed) by Judge Weech. There was no Motion for dismissal in the court computer system, although there was a court order for him to get his guns back from the Crystal Lake PD.

I received a prompt response to my FOIA Request, which was filed after I called a clerk in the court's office, then called the State's Attorney's office (where I was directed to Court Administration), called the Public Defender's office, and then called Court Administration, where I left a message for a woman who never bothered to call me back with the public information.

Katherine Keefe, Clerk of the Circuit Court (the elected Clerk office, not a clerk), replied quickly to my FOIA Request and let me know that there is no written Motion for dismissal, because Judge Weech had accepted an oral motion from the Public Defender's office (which office had told me that they couldn't answer any questions).

All I can guess is that the Crystal Lake police officer who arrested Haas didn't show up in court, and so Judge Weech dismissed the case. Or maybe the officer was there and did not contest the oral motion for dismissal by the Public Defender. Without a written Motion it's hard to know exactly what happened.

Maybe the Court should review its procedures and require a written Motion on such an important matter.

Could somebody, somewhere, in the court system have answered my question last week about the public record in this case, so that a FOIA Request would not have been necessary? Doing so would have saved their time and taxpayer money.

The bottom line?

O'Grady's case was dismissed.
Haas's case was dismissed.
McHenry County Sheriff's Department is embroiled in one more lawsuit.

Proofreaders - how are you doing?

OK, you proofreaders and editors!

What's wrong with this description of the Woodstock BOFPC?

"Board of Fire and Police Commissioners
"The powers and duties of the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners are established by State Statute and pertain to sworn members of the Police Department. These duties include: to conduct the testing process for appointment as a Police Officer, to administer the testing process for promotions, and to conduct hearings on charges brought against a sworn member of the Police Department. This Commission meets as needed. For more information, contact the Police Chief at policechief@woodstockil.gov or (815) 338-2161."

No prizes, but you get to feel really good about yourself if you find five errors.

Only the tip of the iceberg?

What if all this stuff is only the tip of the iceberg???

Is it any wonder that some deputies are frustrated? They didn't sign up for this kind of "stuff" when they swore to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of Illinois.

Yesterday I was thinking about the chain-of-command. If you've got a gripe, you can't go straight to the sheriff or to the Law & Justice Committee or to the County Board. You have to go to your supervisor. If you don't get a positive reception from your supervisor, then you must ask (at least in the military) for permission to go on up the food chain. And if that permission is refused? Then you go on up at the risk of being charged and disciplined for insubordination.

I would never be hearing any of these stories, if deputies had an avenue for reporting dereliction of duty and failing to investigate or handle properly AND if sincere investigations were conducted to get at the TRUTH, and then that Truth was acted upon.

And so the stories keep coming...

"Here is some other stories about Sergeants...

"How about the story of the suspected rapist who was given a warning for, get this, a DUI and concealed weapon. (A GUN!) Are the women around here feeling safe? Okay, Sgt K and Deputy 1 (SGT. K was only a deputy at the time) get involved with a traffic stop one night. The driver is a local tavern owner. He is drunk. He is well known to all the deputies... he takes care of them in the bar. Sgt. K and Deputy 1 do their thing and low and behold the bar owner also has a gun in the car. No FOID card. Sgt S is called out. All parties agree that the bar owner should be given a warning and his gun should be handed over to a"friend". Bar owner goes home, car is removed, gun is wherever. Supervisor finds out what happened and Sgt K, Sgt S and deputy 1 all get suspended for a couple, 3 days. Some years later the bar owner is arrested and charged with sexual assault after a female employee reported that she was attacked in his bar.

"You've already heard about the Sgt and Lt. that are being sued by Susan O'Grady and how they were involved in the car chase down Rt. 173, Sgt. S was with the Lt. These three guys are the best of friends. These are also the three guys who were suspended in the "aggravated battery to a peace officer" incident. Sgt. S didn't think it was a big deal either. It was his birthday that everyone was celebrating that evening.

"Sgt. S was also disciplined for calling a female dispatcher "F**cking Idiot" in front of a group of her peers while at work."

Honoring Illinois' Fallen

Why is Illinois so slow to honor the three soldiers from the Woodstock Armory with lowered flags, following their deaths in Afghanistan on Sunday?

Shouldn't the flags be lowered upon receipt of notice?

Frankly, I don't care how busy Gov. Quinn is with the budget.

Caution on Country Club Road

Be careful on Country Club Road in the mornings, when the "kids" are heading to MCC.

This morning I was driving from MCC back to Woodstock at 8:25AM and met a young woman driver in a hurry on eastbound Country Club Road, south of McConnell Road. Although eastbound traffic was heavy, she was passing other eastbound cars in the hilly section of Country Club Road. She was driving a grey Jeep Commander or Cherokee - couldn't get a good look at the license plate - might have started with C15-.

Traffic appeared to be moving at the speed limit and was heavy. I wonder what her big hurry was. Late for an 8:30AM class? Big deal! It looked like she had at least two passengers in the car.

Just what's needed on Country Club Road - a head-on accident; right? Illegal passing is an easy ticket, unlike speeding, where police officers and deputies might see a driver they "know" is speeding, but can't prove it.

Let's hope the County deputies will "set up" there a few mornings and grab some of these reckless drivers. To pass in a hilly 40MPH zone is not "careless" or just illegal passing; it is Reckless. The other students in her car should have been screaming at her to slow down and stay in her lane!

"Shot Fired"

One of the most hazardous calls for a police officer or sheriff's deputy is a "Shots Fired!" call. It really gets the ol' Adrenalin pumping!

But what if the shot is fired in your own patrol room? Read this one. Actually, it's not all that uncommon. In Colorado there was a picture frame (frame and glass; no picture) hung on the wall of the patrol room over a bullet hole!

This juicy one came to me by email:

"Sgt. H was also at the center of a "accidental" discharge of a fire arm that took place right in the roll call room. Some deputies having guns is not as safe as the public might think. Here's the story....One morning deputy 1 is talking to deputy 2 about a new safety feature on his pistol. Sgt. H is present. Deputy 1 tells deputy 2 that the weapon wont fire under certain conditions and attempts to demonstrate. The weapon is loaded. Deputy 1 un-holsters the weapon. Points it at a door that leads into the roll call room. A place deputies are known to frequent, mind you, especially before and after shift. Then deputy 1 pulls the trigger. A bullet goes through the door and ends up in the storage locker located inside the roll call room. Again, someone could have been killed. Now, this entire event was witnessed by Sgt. H. At no point did she feel that firing a loaded weapon inside the building was a bad idea. Mind boggling! She wasn't disciplined, deputy 1 received a reprimand, deputy 2 was scared "poop-less" and learned a valuable lesson."

You'll understand, of course, why accidental was put in parentheses. There was no accident about it. The deputy pulled the trigger; the gun fired. It's called Negligence. As soon as the weapon was removed from its holster, it should have first been checked for a safe condition. That means removing the magazine and ejecting any round from the chamber.

Here Deputy 1 "assumed" he understood how the weapon was supposed not to fire. Where do you test that? On the firing range! Not in the roll call room.

You can be a nice guy and still make a dumb decision. Everyone is lucky that no one was injured. It doesn't change your being a nice guy.

La Audiencia Publica

Check out the huge, 3-column box ad in this morning's Northwest Herald for a Public Meeting to be held by the Kane County Division of Transportation at Randall Oaks Golf Club.

This meeting has something to do with Longmeadow Road, Route 31 and Route 62. And that's about I can get out of the ad, because the announcement is in the Spanish language. Not Spanish and English. Only in Spanish!

I'll admit that I have been saying since 1974, "I must learn Spanish!" When I was doing the Deputy-thing in Colorado, I knew a day would come when I needed Spanish. Actually it came one night when I stopped a car with four Mexicans, none of whom admitted to speaking English. I knew they understood me, though, because, when I told them to keep their hands in sight, they did.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I have said this many times in 35 years. And saying it has not helped me learn Spanish. I studied Latin, German and Russian, but I never learned the language spoken now by 35% of the people in the U.S.

But the question this morning is, "Why is this Public Meeting announcement in Spanish only?"

It's $22K PER YEAR (not once)

At Tuesday night's Woodstock City Council a Mass Notification System (MNS) was discussed and approved. There were considerable discussion about whether a recession is the right time to spend $22,000 for an electronic system of notifying residents of emergencies, and Councilman Ralph Webster said there was already a system in place. I don't recall his exact words about the state of operation of that existing system, but I got the idea that it's not functioning at this time (or not functioning properly).

I expressed my opinion to the City Council that spending so much time on a $22,000 decision didn't make sense to me. I suspect my disgust showed quite plainly.

And I neglected to ask what had seemed the most important question to me: "Was the $22,000 just the cost of negotiating a contract with Blackboard Connect or was it the total cost of the system?"

I walked away from the meeting believing that $22,000 was the one-time cost for a system to be purchased by the City of Woodstock to inform residents of true emergencies. Has there ever been one here?

On Wednesday morning I called City Hall and learned that the $22,000 is the estimated annual "not-to-exceed" cost. What the Council approved was the MNS that will cost 22 grand every year!

Perhaps I was thinking about what I was going to say, when I should have been listening, but I did not hear one person at the front of the room say this was an annual cost. Over the next 20 years that's almost half a million dollars. And it will be, with system upgrades, maintenance, inflation and population growth.

The City Council was less than transparent with its public consideration of this project!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Liverpool Station - 2009

Wouldn't this be fun to do!! This is REALLY NEAT!!!

At the train station in Liverpool, England T-Mobile did this great commercial unbeknown to the daily commuters. They practiced for 8 weeks plus one late night at the station.

On January 15th, 2009, with hidden cameras and 400 dancers at 11:00 a.m. their plan was put into action. And some say the Brits are straight laced!!!

This is fun ----- Enjoy! Don't you wish that events like this would erupt spontaneously, as in the movies? Like, maybe even in Woodstock?


Cops are human, too

Imagine my thoughts today as I passed a Woodstock officer returning to the police station on Lake Avenue, when I noticed that he had not signalled his right turn into the employee parking lot. There was no vehicle exiting the parking lot, none following him closely, none waiting to turn in front of him.

Not a big deal; right?

However, recently unsignaled right turns are costing Woodstock drivers $75.00. No Warnings. If you get stopped, you get a ticket. Two drivers have had their letters published in the Northwest Herald. How many more got similar tickets but didn't write to the paper?

Failing to signal a turn is a traffic violation, but it's not a heinous crime. While it might merit a traffic stop, in most situations a Warning will suffice. It's a "wake-up call" to the driver to be more alert. A courteous traffic stop and reminder will go a long way, and it will go much further than a $75.00 ticket.

It's not a big deal that the officer didn't signal. There is no reason to make a big deal over this, except for what appears to be a new Zero Tolerance policy at the Woodstock Police Department. If you fail to signal and an officer spots you, you will get a ticket!

Perhaps Chief Lowen would be willing to clarify in writing, in a press release posted on the Police Department's webpages of the City's website, that

1) there is no ticket quota for beat officers or traffic officers;
2) the officers have discretion to issue Warnings, rather than giving tickets on every traffic stop; and
3) there is no revenue-generating scheme in place at the Woodstock PD.

I say we want fair, firm, impartial traffic law enforcement in Woodstock. Drivers should not have to worry unduly about being stopped or ticketed every time they drive on Woodstock streets.

Whew! They are small!

Take a look at this SmartCar, seen in Woodstock today. For a good look at the license plate, click on the image (then click on the Back button on your browser).

Not much chance of door dings in that parking space!

I wonder how they are in snow and on ice. Anyone know?

Australian Koala - Sam's Story

A friend in Scotland emailed "Sam's Story" to me as an attachment. She wrote that she cried and cried. See if it has the same impact on you.

I found it on the web and invite you to enjoy it, too.


Dinner? It couldn't be (could it?)

Does it strike anyone else that maybe there's a little something illegal going on at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?

In January 2007 I was told of a $100 "bounty" out on me; any deputy who could write me a ticket for anything was going to get $100 cash. And I was told who had offered it. And that's one of the reasons why, when I saw that my headlight was out at 5:40PM on a winter evenng in Wonder Lake, I wrote down the time and the mileage. It happened to be a Woodstock officer who stopped me 20 minutes later right in front of my house, courteously informed of the reason he had stopped me and told me that he would issue a Warning. No problem. Another Woodstock police car (Car 22) showed up (back up or just nosy?); the two officers talked; then the detaining officer returned to my car window and informed me that he was going to issue a ticket, instead.

I was going to fight it, but I rolled over and paid the $75, to avoid the risk of $150 in court costs. I have always wondered just what the second officer said to the officer who stopped me that night.

And then yesterday comes this to me:

"You've been a wanted man for a long time. sgt's have offered dinners for the deputy that gives you a ticket. I'm surprised you haven't been overwhelmed by traffic stops, especially now. They played a tape of you once at roll call when you spoke out at a County board meeting about that guy Seipler shot with the bean bag. I'm surprised Zane reached out to you. It's good though. Things around here are messed up."

The Woodstock officer who stopped me said he had never heard of the bounty offered at the Sheriff's Department, and I believe him.

I have never been critical of the deputy who had to fire the bean bag shotgun; however, I have been critical of the management of that call that resulted in the shooting less than 45 minutes after the deputies responded. It was clearly a mental-health call, fueled by alcohol, and Crisis-Intervention-Trained deputies are supposed to know how to keep such calls from escalating unnecessarily.

It's nice to know that my remarks to the County Board were played at a roll call, and I wonder how many deputies "got" the message and examined their actions at the Maxson residence that day (and their report-writing directions afterwards). Those were the reports I obtained through a FOIA request. I was astounded by the similarity in the reports written by about five different deputies! And I still am.

Cover-ups - do they happen?

Yesterday I received this from yet another deputy who has knowledge of how a July 13, 2008, crash report got changed.

"Sergeant H.... You already know how she changed a report so that a member of the Traffic Unit wouldn't be the "at fault" vehicle in a car accident that day back in July 2008. After that cover up Sgt. H was on the hot seat because a conscientious deputy told the woman (Lisa Jarva) to complain to the department about the accident report. Sgt. H tried to start an internal investigation into this deputy. Reason...you can't say anything to the public if it contradicts the almighty supervisor. Cover up and lie is the way a deputy has to live if a mistake is made. They can't man up and say sorry, even if they want to do that. Anyway, the reason Sgt. H changed the report, in my opinion, she was bullied into it by the deputy. She doesn't have the leadership capabilities to be supervisor (She's not the only one.) Her original report was correct, she had the deputy at fault. Big deal, deputy gets a ticket. Deputies make mistakes, why cover it up? Because that is the mentality that has been passed down for a long time. Unless of course you're not one of the "good ole boys" or a token female."

On July 13 a McHenry County woman's car was hit by a deputy who pulled off the shoulder into the side of her car. That's July 13, 2008 - eight months ago. Think the County has paid her yet?

It has been reported to the Sheriff, to the County Administrator and to the 3rd party claims administrator, ClaimsOne, that the crash report delivered to the woman was false. It was wrong. It was in error. It was, in reality, fraudulent. The woman whose car was damaged contacted the sergeant and told the sergeant that she knew the crash report was wrong. It should have been corrected by July 20. How much easier it would have been then just to correct the report. ClaimsOne would have paid the claim and that would have been the end of it.

Why is this important? Because next time YOU might be the one involved.

But has it been corrected yet, so that the woman can be paid for the damage to her car? No!

Any idea how risky it is for a deputy to speak out about what's wrong at our County's Sheriff's Department? They have a rule about that. The rule? You don't air your dirty laundry in public.

The intense traffic operations along Route 12 on that July evening were to catch drivers who had been a party near Richmond, where alcohol was sold all day without a license. I've been told on several occasions that deputies in plainclothes were there, videotaping the illegal sales. But no action was taken against the person who had been denied the liquor license but who sold alcohol anyway. Instead, deputies were detailed to stop cars leaving the party.

There will be more on that event in the near future.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Watch for motorcycles

Now is the time to start watching for motorcycles. An early Spring has already brought them out, and some have already forgotten (or never learned) safe riding skills.

This guy tailgated me today from Crystal Lake to Culver's on US 14. Several times I thought he was going to pass, but oncoming traffic kept him behind me.

He was more than a little impatient with my plodding along at 50MPH. Just west of MCC he was weaving in the lane from centerline to shoulder line for several hundred yards. He went around me as the roadway widened to four lanes near Culver's and, as luck would have it, he caught a red light at Culver's.

When the light turned green, he took off. I thought I might see a real, genuine wheelie, but the front tire came off the ground only a little bit. Had he been 15 years younger, he probably would have popped a good wheelie. He really cranked it, and I estimated his speed at 70-75MPH, but then he caught another red light by Farm & Fleet.

When that light changed, he just rode off west at a safe clip to IL 47, where he "almost" stopped for the red light before turning north on 47.

The bike? A Kawasaki Ninja, Illinois motorcycle plate BW 6638. Let's hope he lives to enjoy riding all summer.
All right, I'll admit it. I was just jealous that he was on his bike, and I wasn't out on mine!

An Invitation to Readers

Thank you for continuing to read The Woodstock Advocate. Tonight the counter hit 20,000, only 2 1/2 months after the counter was placed on this site. Why did I put on a counter? My request to be considered "media" for the purposes of receiving crime reports was rejected, because the blog had only 2,000 hits in a year.

Without a counter I had no idea of the number of views. Now I have an idea. The 20,000 are not "unique" views (those of different readers). If you come back three times in a day, that'll be three clicks.

Here are my invitations.

#1. Is there something you would like me to look into?

If you know of something going on that doesn't smell right to you, send me the information. You can email it to gus@woodstockadvocate.com. You can fax it to (815) 338-2666. You can mail it to Gus Philpott, P.O. Box 1222, Woodstock, IL 60098.

Confidentiality will be protected! I will not use your name without your permission, if you provide it to me. If you include contact information, I will contact you for more information if I need it, unless you ask no contact.

I generally confirm information by feeding my horse an extra measure of oats, polishing up the armor, and trotting around the town. Stories get even better when 2-3-4 people tell me the same story, adding new details to the basic facts.

#2. Forward articles to people you think might like to read them. Just click on the little envelope below the story and forward it by email. No postage! I never see the email addresses to which stories are forwarded or yours when you forward them. So you don't have to worry about spam from me or any use whatsoever of either email address.

#3. Please comment on articles. I appreciate and respect all views. Please keep it clean; I won't pass Comments that are vulgar or profane. No libel. I may re-open Comments to publication without reading them first. They were that way, initially. Then the cyberstalking got too heavy,and I figured that many readers might not want to read the nastygrams.

The current position on moderating comments is not for the purpose of censoring them. I'll pass through almost all of them.

Thanks for reading!

Woodstock City Council 3/17/09

At this evening's City Council meeting I addressed the Council, minus RB Thompson, on three topics, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) and the Woodstock Police Department.

The BOFPC is a 3-man commission of non-employee civilian residents of Woodstock, one of whom happens to be a police chief of a neighboring community. I asked the City Council to examine the issue of fairness to an employee of the police department who has been placed on suspension without pay. While he may have been charged in Wisconsin with traffic offenses, he has not been convicted.

For the BOFPC to issue the discipline it did, before any traffic case against him is resolved, is wrong. The Human Resources Director of the City, the City Manager, and the City Council should be all over the Police Department and the BOFPC for its premature decision. And they should direct the BOFPC to hold a hearing ASAP. As a matter of fact, it should have already been held - yet it hasn't even been scheduled!

A second topic for me tonight was the traffic initiatives of the Woodstock Police Department and the 51% jump in "Other traffic arrests". Rumors swirl around me about new ticket quotas for officers, and I asked the City Council to look into them. I did add that performance standards are okay, but not quotas. Quotas are illegal. I am very concerned about any effort to change the Police Department into a revenue source for the City.

Unfortunately, police officers are ordered not to talk about issues like these; if they do, they are subject to disciplinary action. So how does the public find out if quotas have been established? If an officer is unconstitutionally muzzled, does he have to win the Lottery before sticking his neck out and talking about working conditions?

I didn't plan to speak during the audience comment period on the Mass Notification System (MNS) for alerting residents to emergencies. And I forgot to ask the most important question - about the total cost of the System.

Item E3 was "Approval to establish a Mass Notification System within the City of Woodstock and authorization to enter into an agreement with Blackboard Connect for their product, Connect-CTY at a cost not to exceed $22,000."

Councilman Ahrens said he hoped the MNS would not be used for Christmas Tree Pick-up alerts and other non-emergency notifications. Also mentioned were ball field closures (too wet to play) and downtown snow emergencies.

These things are what email and text-messaging are for. One City employee should be able to send an email alert to all the ball players and coaches in about two minutes, if the fields are too wet to play on. Or they just read the "Too Wet. Closed Today" sign on the fence when they arrive.

Now, if a tanker car falls off the railroad tracks and leaks chlorine in the downtown area, that's an emergency. A tornado warning is an emergency. A block on the Square burning? Maybe, if you live downtown.

I'm sure I endeared myself to them by stating that I couldn't imagine why there were spending so much time on a $22,000 decision, when that type of decision really could have just been made by staff. And then I got to thinking, "Is the $22,000 just for the contract negotiations to end up with the System?" Surely, this could not be the case.

The $22,000 had better be for the entire working system, not just for the lawyers to put together a deal.

Councilman Ralph Webster was the only vote against the MNS. He said there is already a system in place to do this. Apparently, it doesn't work right at this time, but there is a system.

Other councilpersons stressed the importance of frugality during hard economic times. I don't think I heard the word "recession" today.

Pushing for arrests

Have you been arrested but honestly believed you shouldn't have been. Now, I don't mean that the "jails are full of innocent people." They aren't. But there definitely are arrests that never should have been.

I love the emails, faxes and letters from folks in the law enforcement business in McHenry County (and elsewhere). Keep 'em coming!

Here's one that I received recently:

"Sergeants (Continued) There is so much to write.... Sergeant P. (Could be several, guess who I'm talking about.) Sgt. P's favorite instruction to deputies is "gotta get your arrests stats up!" IS IT JUST ME OR DOES ANYONE ELSE FEEL PRESSURE TO WALK THE GRAY LINE OF POLICE WORK!!! For the life of me I don't know how he expects that to be done.. More self initiated activity..Sure. I bust my ass everyday. More traffic stops? He said arrests, not traffic stops. Okay. Short of that, what is an officer to do. You could look for drugs with the K9 but on midnights he's to busy getting "No Valid's". The afternoon guy is busy trying to get his own stats up. I guess a deputy could go into Wonder Lake and instigate a fight on every service call. Aggravated battery is a good arrestable offense. Easy to get too, when the deputy is the victim. How about obstruction, not speaking English really isn't obstruction. Arresting a man's(DEPUTY'S) wife for telling you her husband isn't home on a CIVIL PAPER attempt really isn't the right thing to do. IT WILL GET YOUR ARREST STATS UP! Or maybe a deputy should work on their psychic abilities and be able to visualize that a driver doesn't have a driver's license. I wish they would teach that class. From what I gather "special" deputies have had that training, look at their arrest numbers. I guess the rest are to busy looking for traffic offenses first and dealing with the driver's license second. I thought a retired Lieutenant was bad about telling deputies to "ruin people's day". This guy just straight out tells you ARRESTS MAKES YOUR CAREER GO ROUND! LIKE A TOILET AFTER YOU FLUSH!

"Personal life...don't throw stones if you live in a glass house and his home is a green house. And I do know he's a regular at the Elk's Lodge in Woodstock, PBPA Thursdays, 1800hrs, drinks are cheap and carrying the badge keeps Woodstock Police Department's arrest numbers down..

"Philpot, my friend, there are so many supervisors and so little time.."