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posted: 7/2/2010 12:01 AM

Elgin police supervisors suspended over affair

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  • Elgin police Deputy Chief Robert Beeter and Sgt. Tamara Welter were suspended 30 days each following an investigation into an inappropriate relationship, city officials announced Thursday. This photo was obtained by the Daily Herald through the Freedom of Information Act.

      Elgin police Deputy Chief Robert Beeter and Sgt. Tamara Welter were suspended 30 days each following an investigation into an inappropriate relationship, city officials announced Thursday. This photo was obtained by the Daily Herald through the Freedom of Information Act.

 
 

Two high-ranking Elgin police supervisors were suspended without pay for 30 working days each - the equivalent of six weeks - after a lengthy investigation concluded their affair violated city policy and damaged department morale.

"Their actions reflected poorly on the department and they are being penalized," Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall said in a statement released late Thursday.

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Deputy Chief Robert Beeter, a 17-year veteran who often was left in charge when former police Chief Lisa Womack was out of town, will lose about $14,324 in pay based on his salary of $123,969 last year.

Sgt. Tamara Welter, the department's accreditation manager who oversees both the crime-free housing unit and the resident officer program of Elgin, known as ROPE, will lose $10,674 based on her $92,507 salary last year.

Neither Beeter nor Welter responded to multiple messages left on their work and cell phones.

Both have been on active duty during the investigation. They will not be demoted.

Welter could appeal her suspension; Beeter cannot because he is not in the police union.

Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said in a statement that the investigation "demonstrated that no on-duty misconduct occurred" but the officers "did violate city and department rules and regulations and their actions were not consistent with the values of the department."

Swoboda plans to decide Friday when the suspensions will begin.

"It will take us some time to work through it and get past it," Swoboda said. "They're going to serve their suspensions at a time that's best for the department and not best for them."

The investigation, described by Stegall as the most thorough he can recall in his 10-plus years with the city, began last winter and resulted in a 700-page report.

Acting on several tips from within the department, the Daily Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this year for departmental text messages and e-mail correspondence between Beeter and Welter from May 2009 through December 2009.

The city released 419 e-mails showing that, during work hours, Welter and Beeter discussed taking trips and spending Thanksgiving together, and arranged private encounters.

Welter's husband, Elgin police Lt. Greg Welter, filed for divorce in December, citing irreconcilable differences. The Welters have been married for nearly 14 years and have three children.

Greg Welter learned of the relationship in November 2009 when he accidentally discovered a suggestive departmental e-mail between Beeter and his wife. He later approached Stegall, launching the investigation.

The city's statement Thursday said the pair were suspended for "violations surrounding general conduct, department rules and regulations, standard operating procedures and expectations listed in the city of Elgin's employee manual."

The relationship conflicts with both the police department's fraternization policy and code of ethics.

Under the fraternization policy, an employee is not to supervise relatives or others with whom a personal relationship exists.

Both worked in the operations bureau, but Welter did not report directly to Beeter. She answered to a lieutenant, who then reported to Beeter.

According to the policy, a supervisor is "a person who has authority, direct or indirect, over another by virtue of their rank or job classification."

The policy also warns: "Failure by an employee to report relationships to their immediate supervisor compromises the integrity of the department's chain of command, disrupts the work environment, causes decline in morale and can reduce productivity. Any failure to report relationships as required by this directive shall constitute misconduct and a violation of department policy and may subject an employee to disciplinary action."

When officers sign the code of ethics, they also vow to "keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or my agency."

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