Fittest loser
Article updated: 8/15/2013 5:31 AM

Wauconda police chief says he's been placed on leave by mayor

Frank Bart

Frank Bart

 
Douglas Larsson

Douglas Larsson

 
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Embattled Wauconda Police Chief Douglas Larsson on Wednesday informed his department he's been placed on leave.

The announcement came in an email sent less than a day after Larsson publicly squared off against Mayor Frank Bart over his job and the future leadership of the department.

In a telephone interview with the Daily Herald, Bart said Larsson is taking the vacation time he's accrued during his years with the department.

Larsson had been set to step down as chief Aug. 31. He will not return to work, Bart said.

At the end of the village board's committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday night, a lawyer for Larsson told officials the chief was withdrawing a letter in which he offered to step down from the department. Larsson has said Bart forced him out of the job after taking office in May.

Bart refuses to accept Larsson's change of heart. On Wednesday, Bart said he still intends to nominate Sgt. Patrick Yost as the department's next chief.

The village board will vote on Yost's nomination on Tuesday, Aug. 20, Bart said. The mayor said he doesn't know if he has the board's support.

Regardless of Larsson's latest move, Bart said, the veteran cop is out as chief at the end of the month.

"The chief's chair is only big enough for one person," Bart said. "He's got to move on."

Larsson couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. He attended Tuesday's meeting but did not address the board.

Late in the day, the Daily Herald acquired a copy of Larsson's email to his staff. In the email, Larsson said he was placed on leave by interim Village Administrator Brad Fink at Bart's direction.

Bart told the Daily Herald he instructed Fink to order Larsson to take his remaining vacation days.

"That was always my plan," he said.

When asked why Larsson was given the order Wednesday, Bart said it was because the chief had failed to take the time earlier as requested.

Suburban police chiefs are mayoral nominees approved by village boards. A mayor can replace a chief by not recommending their reappointment.

Rather than firing the chief or making him resign, Bart had agreed to let Larsson tender a letter saying he would vacate the post.

The issue resurfaced during Tuesday night's meeting. Following a lengthy closed-door discussion between Bart and the village board about the chief's job, attorney Richard Blass announced Larsson has rescinded his offer to step down.

The news drew cheers from the dozens of Larsson supporters who packed into village hall for a planned board vote on a new top cop.

That vote didn't happen. A second board meeting that was scheduled specifically to have that vote was canceled late Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Bart blamed the village board for canceling the meeting. He said he thought the late hour was a factor, but he acknowledged no trustees specifically cited that as a reason for the cancellation.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Trustee Chuck Black said the meeting's cancellation had nothing to do with the time.

"There was really no purpose for it," Black said. He declined to elaborate, citing closed-session confidentiality issues.

Bart said he was disappointed by Larsson's decision to rescind his letter to vacate the post.

"I thought the chief was a man of his word, a man of honor," Bart said.

He accused Larsson of choreographing the announcement with a village business owner who has been critical of Bart's administration.

"The chief is a pawn," Bart said.

He called Larsson's letter offering to step down "a contractual agreement," and he promised to hold Larsson to it.

"He doesn't have any authority (to stay)," Bart said.

Village attorney Rudy Magna agreed. Once a chief's letter of resignation has been accepted by a mayor, he said, "that should be it."

"But we have a little bit of anarchy developing here, and that's unfortunate," Magna said.

Black doesn't expect Bart will change his mind about dumping Larsson.

"That's a done deal," Black said.

He declined to say if he thinks Bart has the four votes needed for Yost to be appointed chief.

Magna is concerned Larsson's battle with Bart could affect police services. The issue may wind up in court, he said.

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