Former Island Lake police officer Billy Dickerson has been reinstated after a three-year absence from the department.
Dickerson claimed he was improperly terminated in 2010. His reinstatement was approved by a 4-3 vote Thursday night as part of a settlement agreement and was effective immediately.
Dickerson, an Island Lake resident, actively campaigned for new Mayor Charles Amrich’s slate this spring. Amrich cast a tiebreaking vote, and all the trustees who sided with Dickerson were part of Amrich’s slate.
Amrich couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Dickerson was on the job Friday morning, taking care of paperwork. He expects to be in uniform and on the street next week.
“I’m happy they finally got it done,” Dickerson told the Daily Herald. “I’m happy to be back to work.”
Dickerson’s new salary was not immediately available.
He is the second Island Lake police officer to be reinstated this month. The other, Wayne Schnell, was hired as a part-time code-enforcement officer three years after an investigation into his behavior prompted his resignation.
Schnell was cleared of the allegations by a second investigation ordered by new Police Chief Don Bero.
Schnell also has political ties to the new administration. He managed Amrich’s successful campaign.
Both Dickerson and Schnell left the department while Debbie Herrmann was mayor and while Bill McCorkle was police chief.
McCorkle quit the day Amrich took office and was replaced by Bero.
Trustees Chuck Cermak, Shannon Fox and Thea Morris voted against reinstating Dickerson following a closed-door discussion.
Trustees Mark Beeson, Keith Johns and Tony Sciarrone voted in favor of the settlement.
Village records indicate Dickerson was fired June 8, 2010, following a closed-door meeting of the fire and police commission, which oversees police personnel moves. He was a probationary officer at the time, officials have said.
The village’s official summary of the meeting indicates McCorkle wanted Dickerson fired due to “insubordination, lying about other officers (and) not backing up officers per procedure.”
The commission unanimously agreed Dickerson should be fired, documents show. However, records of an open meeting held the same day don’t indicate the commission voted publicly to dismiss Dickerson, as is required by law.
The village board voted to reinstate Dickerson in March 2011. Herrmann vetoed the maneuver, and the board overrode the veto, but he never rejoined the force.
In addition to reinstating Dickerson as a police officer, the settlement agreement gives him 240 hours of unused vacation time, 32 hours of personal time, 160 hours of unspecified compensatory time and more than $4,935 cash.
On Friday, Cermak said he opposed reinstating Dickerson because it should be a matter for the fire and police commission, not the village board.
“If he wanted to get back on, that’s where he should have gone,” Cermak said. “That’s who hires and fires. That’s the law.”
Morris agreed. If procedure wasn’t followed in 2010, she said, it’s an Open Meetings Act violation, not an illegal termination.
“To the best of my knowledge, the only issue here is that the (commission) may have failed to take a vote in open session to acknowledge the decision on terminating then-probationary officer Dickerson,” she told trustees in an email shared with the Daily Herald.
Beeson said reinstating Dickerson avoids a threatened lawsuit against the village.
“We were at the breaking point,” he said. “We think we made a very wise decision.”
That decision also puts a man with a criminal record on the police force.
In November 2011, Dickerson was arrested by Island Lake police and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery following an incident at his home, police department records indicate. The charge was upgraded to a felony in February 2012 following a grand jury review, records indicate.
Dickerson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in October 2012 and was sentenced to six months of court supervision, according to the McHenry County state’s attorney’s office. He also was ordered to pay the victim $2,910 in restitution.
Because of the arrest and his support of Amrich’s political slate, Dickerson was among the people targeted by a local activist’s website earlier this year.
Dickerson declined to comment about the case.
The arrest and conviction weren’t issues for Bero.
“In my 40 years of police experience, it’s not all that uncommon for people to have a disorderly conduct (on their record),” Bero said. “I have no problem with that, as long as he’s doing his job.”
Dickerson must take a refresher course to be recertified as a police officer, officials said.
The department has openings for full- and part-time officers, officials have said.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.