Two Gurnee trustees want chief complaints made public
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Two Gurnee trustees are calling for details of the employee complaints against former Police Chief Robert Jones to be released, as his 17-year tenure with the village ended Wednesday with a $139,600 retirement/separation package.
Of Gurnee's six trustees, Kirk Morris and Greg Garner cast the "no" votes on Jones' separation deal Monday night. The deal passed 4-2.
Garner said the amount of public money involved in Jones' departure is why some level of information about the employee complaints should be released. Jones went on paid administrative leave July 14, and his retirement becomes effective today.
Mayor Kristina Kovarik, who has seen the complaints, said personnel matters for any employee cannot be made public. She said the complaints against Jones came from both male and female police department employees and that none go back more than 12 months.
Trustee Jeanne Balmes said the village board's job is to set policy and not dig into internal employee complaints.
She added the public doesn't need to know about the accusations leveled against Jones because they weren't criminal in nature.
"It's not an issue," Balmes said. "We don't know what it was."
Jones' severance, unused vacation compensation, prorated longevity pay, accrued sick leave cash since December 2010 and employer money for eight months of medical and dental insurance total about $139,600. He'll be paid Sept. 29.
Legal fees from the investigation of the complaints against Jones were $5,758 as of July 20, according to documents submitted to the village. Garner said the bills from Chicago's Laner Muchin law firm are projected to reach $15,000.
"The public should be flooding village hall with calls, most definitely," Garner said. "It's their money (Gurnee is) spending."
Morris maintains that trustees were supposed to receive a complete report on the claims against the 65-year-old Jones before determining whether he should get the separation package.
However, Trustees Cheryl Ross and Hank Schwarz said elected officials should abide by their attorneys' advice on the lack of public details about the complaints.
They said the package approved for Jones is in the village's best interest.
Morris also contends trustees didn't have enough time to study the eight-page agreement before it went to a village board vote.
Balmes, however, said what was presented to them in a closed-door session fell in line with typical operating procedure. Ross said she fully understood the agreement and wasn't rushed.
Kovarik said personnel regulations dictated that village board members couldn't receive advance copies of Jones' deal. Morris and Garner are Kovarik's political foes and often are on the minority side of village board votes.
Jones was scheduled to earn $140,000 through the fiscal year ending April 30, 2012. He became Gurnee's top cop in 1994 after a 26-year career at the Elmhurst Police Department.
Jones, who didn't return a message seeking comment Wednesday, forfeited his right to sue the village as part of the agreement.
He'll receive a retirement star and identification as a former Gurnee police chief.
Deputy Chief Kevin Woodside has taken over as interim police chief.
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