More than 200 people filled a cafeteria at Wauconda High School on Tuesday night to support Police Chief Douglas Larsson and to voice outrage over his pending ouster by new Mayor Frank Bart.
Bart tried to defuse the community's anger at the start of the village board meeting -- held at the school because of the anticipated large crowd -- by explaining his motive for the personnel change. In an unusual step, he used a computerized presentation showing highlights of his remarks to capture the audience's attention.
But the vast majority of the people who spoke to the board about Larsson's departure, which is effective Sept. 1, opposed the move.
They spoke highly of Larsson and the work he's done in Wauconda since he was named chief in 2009.
"We think this is a dramatic measure," said local business owner Maria Weisbruch, one of the people behind a grass-roots "Keep the Chief" movement. "(He) is so important to this town."
Local resident Michael Ori said losing Larsson will weaken the police department. He questioned how Bart was able to come to such a "monumental decision" in just a few weeks as mayor.
The crowd also objected -- loudly -- when Bart blamed supporters of ex-Mayor Mark Knigge for the public outcry over Larsson's departure.
Shouts of "lies" and "ridiculous" could be heard.
Legally, Larsson agreed to vacate the post after meeting with Bart about the future of the department. In brief remarks to the crowd, Larsson insisted he hadn't resigned.
Bart had planned to recommend Wauconda police Sgt. Patrick Yost as the new chief. It's up to the village board to hire a police chief.
But as the meeting dragged on Tuesday night, Bart announced he wouldn't be recommending the appointment because it was so late. It will be made at a future meeting, he said..
Yost has worked for the Wauconda Police Department since 1989. He's served in several posts, from patrol officer to deputy chief.
Bart has said he wanted to replace Larsson to save the village money, and he repeated that assertion Tuesday.
He talked of his campaign promise to be "fiscally responsible with your money."
Larsson earns $119,000 a year as chief. Yost earns $101,000 annually as a sergeant, and a new salary hasn't been determined, Bart said.
Eliminating one of the nine sergeant's posts will save more cash, Bart said.
Before coming to Wauconda, Larsson served as chief in Round Lake Beach and in various positions with the Rolling Meadows Police Department.