Lawsuit from ex-cops alleges corruption in Island Lake

  • A federal lawsuit accuses Island Lake Mayor Charles Amrich, left, ex-Trustee Mark Beeson, middle, and former Building Commissioner Wayne Schnell of corruption, racketeering and attempting to impede criminal investigations.

    A federal lawsuit accuses Island Lake Mayor Charles Amrich, left, ex-Trustee Mark Beeson, middle, and former Building Commissioner Wayne Schnell of corruption, racketeering and attempting to impede criminal investigations.

  • Former Island Lake Police Chief Anthony Sciarrone, top, and ex-Sgt. Billy Dickerson, bottom, have sued the village, Mayor Charles Amrich and others, alleging corrupt behavior. Former police officer Joseph Rivera, not pictured, also is a plaintiff in the case.

      Former Island Lake Police Chief Anthony Sciarrone, top, and ex-Sgt. Billy Dickerson, bottom, have sued the village, Mayor Charles Amrich and others, alleging corrupt behavior. Former police officer Joseph Rivera, not pictured, also is a plaintiff in the case. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2011

 
 
Posted7/15/2019 5:33 AM

A federal lawsuit accuses Island Lake Mayor Charles Amrich, ex-Trustee Mark Beeson and former Building Commissioner Wayne Schnell of corruption, racketeering and attempting to impede criminal investigations into their behavior.

The suit was filed July 8 by three former Island Lake police employees: Anthony Sciarrone, who served as trustee and as police chief, and was fired as chief last fall; Billy Dickerson, a sergeant who was fired in January; and Joseph Rivera, a part-time officer who quit last December.

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The suit alleges Amrich, Beeson and Schnell retaliated against Sciarrone, Dickerson and Rivera for contributing to investigations led by the FBI and the McHenry County state's attorney's office. That retaliation cost the officers their jobs in violation of Illinois' whistle-blower law, the suit states.

When asked about the case, McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said his staff referred the allegations against Amrich, Beeson and Schnell to the Illinois State Police and the McHenry County sheriff's office.

As for the FBI, a spokesman said the agency can't confirm or deny any investigation.

No charges have been filed against Amrich, Beeson or Schnell.

Beeson called the accusations false "from beginning to end."

David McArdle, the village's attorney, declined to comment.

The defendants

Amrich, who couldn't be reached to comment on the lawsuit, has been mayor since 2013. He also was mayor from 1985 to 2005.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Beeson ran for trustee on Amrich's slate in 2013, as did Sciarrone. Beeson left the board in 2017 but was appointed to fill a vacancy later that year. He served until this past May.

Schnell, who said he hadn't seen the suit, is a former part-time Island Lake police officer. He resigned from the department in 2010 after an investigation into his behavior.

Schnell also managed Amrich's 2013 political campaign. After Amrich took office, Schnell was rehired as a part-time officer and named the village code enforcement officer. He later was named the town's full-time building commissioner and given a pay raise.

But the village board fired Schnell in May, saying he inconsistently enforced ordinances and lacked sufficient knowledge for the job.

The allegations

The allegations in the lawsuit are diverse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

According to the lawsuit, Schnell took no action when Beeson built a home driveway that was wider than allowed by village code.

The lawsuit also alleges rocks purchased by the village were discovered on a sea wall at Beeson's house.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Schnell misused his village-owned vehicle by not limiting its operation to municipal business.

The suit also accuses Schnell and Beeson of not properly accounting for donations they gathered to fund village events.

The plaintiffs brought information about Amrich, Beeson and Schnell to the McHenry County state's attorney's office, the lawsuit states.

A grand jury also subpoenaed records of building construction at Beeson's home, the suit states.

But Kenneally said his office passed the matter to other agencies and didn't investigate.

As for the suit's reference to a grand jury's actions, such proceedings are secret. A grand jury may have issued subpoenas to assist a law enforcement agency, but no grand jury convened to investigate these allegations, Kenneally said.

At an unspecified time, Amrich, Beeson and Schnell learned of the investigations and sought to stop them, the complaint states.

According to the suit, Beeson privately met with other trustees in April 2018 and sought to order Sciarrone to disclose details of the probes.

The defendants "influenced, obstructed or attempted to influence, obstruct or impede" the investigations, the suit states.

Rivera and another part-time police officer, Charles Mader, wrote a July 2018 memo asking Amrich to stop interference in the case and to protect them from retaliation, the lawsuit states. Mader was fired last fall and is not part of the lawsuit.

In August 2018, trustees hired attorney Yvette Heintzelman to investigate complaints of harassment involving the police department and village employees.

The following month, Heintzelman privately delivered a report officials said was highly critical of departmental practices. It hasn't been released to the public.

Sciarrone subsequently was fired for what Beeson described at the time as "gross incompetence" and running the department "with fear and intimidation." Dickerson and Mader were fired, and Rivera resigned.

Sciarrone, Dickerson and Rivera are asking for reinstatement to their former jobs, back pay and financial compensation.

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