Island Lake cop sues village, mayor over peer's promotion
An Island Lake police officer is suing the village, alleging he was illegally passed over for promotion to sergeant in 2014 so one of Mayor Charles Amrich's political supporters could get the job instead.
Officer Garrett Schmoeller filed the federal lawsuit Nov. 25.
In the complaint, Schmoeller claims the promotion of a different officer to sergeant in December 2014 was unconstitutional, violating First and 14th Amendment protections of free speech and due process.
That officer isn't identified in the lawsuit or named as a defendant. Instead, the complaint refers to him as the "Selectee."
However, fire and police commission member Arnold Epstein on Tuesday confirmed the "Selectee" is Sgt. Billy Dickerson, who was one of two officers promoted to sergeant in December 2014. The other was Nick Deuter.
The professional background and political activities of the "Selectee" described in the lawsuit match Dickerson's background and activities, not Deuter's.
Those activities include actively campaigning for Amrich and his slate of candidates ahead of the 2013 municipal election.
"Obviously, it has to be (Dickerson)," Epstein said.
Epstein is among the defendants targeted by the lawsuit.
Amrich and the two other people who served on the village's fire and police commission at the time, Debra Jenkins and Thomas Martin, are defendants, too.
The commission deals with police department hirings, firings and promotions.
Jenkins later was elected to the village board.
Epstein and Martin remain on the commission.
When asked about the lawsuit, Epstein said he didn't think it had any merit.
Jenkins defended the commission's promotion of Dickerson.
"This was a unanimous and legal decision by the commission that had nothing to do with politics," she said.
"We simply chose the best candidates to represent the village of Island Lake," she said.
Jenkins was a prominent supporter of Amrich's 2013 campaign, at one time serving as its treasurer.
She and her husband, Greg, were the campaign's most generous donors, contributing thousands of dollars in cash, services and goods, state records show.
On Tuesday, Amrich said he's seen the lawsuit but declined to comment further.
Schmoeller declined to comment.
Schmoeller joined the department in 2001 and served as sergeant from 2011 to 2014.
He lost his stripes after the police commission and other officials alleged he and two other sergeants had been improperly promoted to that rank.
None of the three sergeants were appointed to their posts by the police commission, as required by law, village documents indicated.
After the discovery, Schmoeller and Deuter retook the sergeant's test.
In his lawsuit, Schmoeller claims he was ranked second on the sergeant's eligibility list but was passed over for promotion in favor of the "Selectee," even though that officer was not as qualified, had less seniority and had other issues.
"The Selectee was still chosen over the plaintiff based on Selectee's active political support for Amrich and the trustees who were on the same slate as Amrich," the lawsuit says.
In the complaint, Schmoeller claims he lost salary and benefits because of the village's actions and he has suffered emotional distress.
He's requesting more than $350,000 in damages and to be promoted to sergeant.