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Local News

Joliet mayor calls for peace amid mysterious investigation into police chief

City manager says he wants outside arbitrator to examine Joliet issues

The Joliet City Council and Mayor Bob O’Dekirk had a come-together moment Tuesday, but it’s not stopping the mayor from moving forward with an investigation of the police chief that council members say they know nothing about.

Police Chief Al Roechner said he knows nothing about it, either.

“I have no idea. I haven’t been given anything,” Roechner said when asked about the investigation that O’Dekirk announced at the end of the Monday council meeting.

The mayor has not said what’s being examined. But he announced the probe after criticizing a “leak” of reports, which were obtained by The Herald-News, into persistent claims the mayor made that a police sergeant was drunk on duty at Fiesta en la Calle in September. The investigation, which included a blood and urine test for Sgt. Lindsey Heavener the night of the event, determined he had not been drinking.

O’Dekirk suggested he would go into more detail Tuesday but instead introduced his remarks saying, “I’m going to dial those comments down tonight.”

“The public argument that’s going on is not helping,” the mayor said.

He called for suggestions on how to bring a sometimes deeply divided council together, which elicited suggestions of a council retreat and an outside arbitrator.

Interim City Manager Steve Jones said he plans to bring in “someone from the outside” to look into a conflict between City Hall and the police department that “has been simmering and simmering and simmering. This has been six to nine months of miscommunication and mistrust between City Hall and police.”

O’Dekirk earlier in the day during a radio interview on WJOL-AM linked the latest controversy to a handful of “convincing liars” in the supervisor ranks of the police department, who he contended were responsible for persuading a council majority to remove City Attorney Martin Shanahan from the interim city manager job in June.

“Absolutely not,” Council member Pat Mudron said when asked later in the day if he talked with police supervisors about removing Shanahan before casting the vote to do it. “I never did. They like to spin that now.”

Mudron also said he knew nothing about the investigation into Roechner.

So did council members Jan Quillman, Michael Turk and Larry Hug.

Quillman said she did not even know what the mayor meant Monday when he said both she and O’Dekirk may have been victims of criminal conduct.

“I’m waiting to see what the accusations are,” Quillman said.

Chris Regis, the city’s inspector general, said after the meeting Tuesday that he is conducting the investigation announced by the mayor, although he said it is “more complicated” than an investigation into Roechner.

Regis would not say more.

“We’re not going to talk about it until it’s over,” Regis said.

O’Dekirk said he had met with Turk, the senior council member, before the Tuesday meeting to discuss measures that could be taken to bring unity to the council.

Turk said the only real divisive issue has been over the selection of city manager, but suggested that the council could benefit from going on a retreat. He said a former council did so many years ago.

“We talked about personalities,” he said. “We talked out issues and how to mend some fences.”

A few residents speaking at the meeting had harsh words about the latest squabble at City Hall.

John Sheridan criticized the use of Regis, who works for the mayor as inspector general, in an investigation that he compared to “putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”

Regis was part of the case being made against Heavener, according to police reports.

In addition to claiming Heavener was drunk, O’Dekirk told police officials that he had heard the sergeant had crashed a golf cart at the event, according to the reports.

Regis said he could not find the cart “and implied we were hiding it because it was damaged,” according to Roechner’s report.

But Roechner said the cart was pushed into a garage after the battery died and said police have provided “pictures of the undamaged golf cart.”

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