Ex-chief pressured workers to file complaints against Island lake cop, memo shows
Former Island Lake Police Chief Bill McCorkle coerced two department employees to file harassment complaints against a part-time officer who quit in 2010 but recently was reinstated, newly released reports show.
Wayne Schnell resigned following McCorkle's investigation into his behavior. But a new inquiry by Island Lake police Sgt. Nick Deuter revealed McCorkle forced two unwilling female employees to make written statements implicating Schnell.
The employees have since recanted, according to Deuter's six-page report, which was acquired by the Daily Herald under the Freedom of Information Act.
"The two individuals who wrote these statements are claiming they were pressured, even threatened with their jobs, to write the statements," Deuter wrote in a June 7 memo to Chief Don Bero, who replaced McCorkle and ordered the matter reopened.
"Both individuals have provided sworn affidavits claiming that their previous statements were done under duress and that they informed Bill McCorkle they never wanted to file a complaint," Deuter wrote.
Additionally, Deuter found no proof tying Schnell to the alleged wrongdoing, which concerned a lewd digital photograph sent anonymously to the women.
"There is no solid evidence linking Wayne Schnell to the picture," Deuter wrote.
McCorkle, who wasn't interviewed by Deuter, couldn't be reached by the Daily Herald.
Schnell, a McHenry County resident who ran the successful election campaign of Mayor Charles Amrich and Amrich's political allies earlier this year, was reinstated last week by the village board. That move was prompted by Deuter's investigation.
Schnell long had insisted he would be cleared of the allegations, which never resulted in criminal or civil charges.
In an email to the Daily Herald, Schnell said it feels "very good" to be vindicated. He did not elaborate.
While not reported in detail by the Daily Herald, the allegations against Schnell -- who came to Island Lake in 2006 after 31 years as a Chicago cop -- were known by village officials and many residents. They were discussed on blogs and websites dedicated to Island Lake politics.
At the heart of the matter was a photograph sent by text message to the female employees. Nothing in the photo indicates where it was taken or who took it, Deuter wrote in his memo.
According to a June 10 memo from Bero to Amrich and other village officials, Schnell asked Bero to review the 2010 case.
Bero requested assistance from the Illinois State Police investigations unit, but the agency declined to participate, Bero wrote. He then assigned Deuter to the investigation.
Among others, Deuter interviewed two women who were employees at the time Schnell resigned. Both said they were approached by McCorkle and ordered to write statements implicating Schnell.
One of the women described McCorkle as demanding, alleging the chief said he'd "go after her job" if she didn't assist him in the investigation, Deuter wrote.
The other woman said McCorkle asked about her relationship with Schnell and threatened to "write her up for dereliction of duty" if she didn't cooperate, Deuter wrote.
Both women said McCorkle ordered them to rewrite their statements several times because he didn't like how they were worded, according to Deuter's memo.
Deuter interviewed Schnell, too, and he denied any impropriety. Schnell told Deuter he resigned because one of the women was a friend and because he wasn't sure what McCorkle "was trying to do or who he was trying to go after," Deuter wrote.
In his conclusion, Deuter said he felt the original investigation against Schnell was unwarranted.
"No one has claimed (they) were ever harassed by Wayne Schnell," Deuter wrote.
Additionally, the phone number from which the text message with the photograph was sent doesn't belong to Schnell, Deuter wrote. It registers to a Naperville resident, Deuter wrote, although he didn't know how long the person has had the number.
Both women said McCorkle told them the number belonged to Schnell, but neither recognized it as his number, according to Deuter's memo.
McCorkle was named chief in 2010 after serving as a part-time officer in Island Lake and as a Great Lakes Naval Station police lieutenant. He quit as chief last month, on the day Amrich took over as mayor.
McCorkle had announced his resignation after Amrich defeated incumbent Debbie Herrmann in the mayoral election. Amrich promised to fire McCorkle if given the opportunity.
When contacted by the Daily Herald on Wednesday, Herrmann stood by McCorkle and the initial investigation into Schnell's behavior. She questioned the reliability of the women involved in the case.
"The new statement is surprising to me," she said. "Was it not factual then or was it not factual now?"
Schnell started work Tuesday as the department's part-time code enforcement officer.
"It felt great to be back 'home' serving the residents of Island Lake," Schnell said in his email.
Amrich has insisted reinstating Schnell has nothing to do with his campaign work.
"There are some people that were wronged and it cost them their jobs, and we're just trying to make it right," Amrich said.