Two ex-cops who are Amrich allies could return to Island Lake police force
Two former Island Lake police officers who campaigned for Mayor Charles Amrich this spring could get their jobs back Thursday.
One, Wayne Schnell, was a part-time officer who managed Amrich's latest political bid. Schnell also was a local political blogger and an outspoken foe of ex-Mayor Debbie Herrmann and ex-chief William McCorkle.
The other, Billy Dickerson, is a former full-time officer who actively campaigned for Amrich's For the People slate this year. Like Schnell, Dickerson has been critical of Herrmann and her political allies on social media and at dailyherald.com.
Both men left the department while Herrmann was running village hall and while McCorkle was chief.
If Dickerson and Schnell are reinstated, they will be the latest Amrich supporters to financially benefit from his administration.
A law firm that donated its services to Amrich's slate during the election was hired as one of the town's legal representatives. Additionally, the towing company that now handles auto removals for the police department is co-owned by a man who donated to Amrich's campaign, state records show.
Amrich denied the latest moves are examples of nepotism.
"These people were wrongly treated, and they just want their positions back," Amrich said. "And I think they're rightfully deserving of that to happen."
Trustee Mark Beeson, who ran with Amrich, said the board's goal is fixing a pair of wrongs, not rewarding political supporters.
"We have an opportunity to right these things, and that's what we're doing," Beeson said.
Neither Schnell nor Dickerson responded to multiple interview requests.
The department has openings for full-time and part-time officers, Chief Don Bero said. He said he'll follow whatever direction he receives from Amrich and the village board.
"Whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do," Bero said.
Dickerson, an Island Lake resident, joined the department in May 2009 and was fired by the police and fire commission in June 2010, village records indicate. The reason for his dismissal wasn't made public.
According to a proposed settlement agreement that will be presented to the board for a vote Thursday, Dickerson contends he was not properly terminated in 2010.
The village board voted to reinstate him in 2011. Herrmann vetoed the maneuver, and the board overrode the veto, but he never rejoined the force.
If Dickerson is reinstated, he will receive a credit for 240 hours of vacation, 112 hours of personal days and 240 hours of compensatory time, according to the proposed settlement agreement. He will receive a credit for unused sick time, too.
The proposed agreement doesn't set a salary for Dickerson.
Trustee Thea Morris opposes the move to reinstate Dickerson on procedural grounds. The board doesn't have the authority to reverse a decision by the police and fire commission, she said.
"I believe the board is overstepping its bounds in even considering reinstatement," said Morris, who leads the board's police and public safety committee. "I believe he was rightfully terminated three years ago and that this is an issue for the police and fire commission."
Beeson believes reinstating Dickerson helps the village avoid a costly lawsuit from the ex-cop.
"We're just trying to do damage control," Beeson said. "It's been looming over our heads all this time."
Schnell, of McHenry County, was a part-time officer from 2006 to 2010. Unlike full-time officers, the village board handles the hirings and firings of part-time cops, not the police commission, Bero said.
Schnell resigned after an investigation into his behavior, according to an October 2010 memo from McCorkle. But a recent police investigation vindicated Schnell, Beeson said.
"He's really asking for what he had," Beeson said. "He wants his job back. He wants his name cleared."
If Schnell is rehired, he'll be paid $20 an hour, according to the agenda for Thursday's board meeting.
Morris opposes Schnell's return to the force.
"I do not believe it would be in the best interests of the village to rehire an officer who resigned under controversial circumstances," she said.
Amrich disagreed, based on a review of the paperwork from the Schnell and Dickerson cases.
"We feel there was no just cause to terminate these two gentlemen," Amrich said.
Dickerson intends to take a refresher course to be recertified as a police officer, Amrich said. Schnell is poised to become the town's code enforcement officer, the mayor said.
When asked about the board's authority to reinstate an officer fired by the police commission, Amrich said "that's one of the questions" that needs to be resolved.
Thursday's meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at village hall, 3720 Greenleaf Ave.