FREEBURG — Two former police officers fired last year because village leaders believed they improperly broke into the evidence room and committed on-duty pranks against fellow officers will not collect employment insurance paychecks for the time they have been out of work, a state arbitrator ruled.
Steve Burrows and John Blomenkamp had appealed the village's decision not to allow the ex-cops to collect out-of-work pay at the expense of taxpayers.
Administrative Law Judge Clifton L. Flex heard more than eight hours of testimony during two days from attorneys for the village and for the former officers.
He issued a judgment Feb. 19 that the pair was "engaging in horseplay on company time," and therefore are not eligible for benefits.
The decision upheld the Village Board's majority Sept. 4 decision to fire the men for "misconduct." The vote was 4-2.
Flex said the former officers cut the lock of a former officer's locker to obtain cartridges for a Taser and poured water on a gate's lock and the door lock of a squad car, "so it would freeze and keep another officer out." Flex described the behavior, which was captured on video, as "horseplay."
Collinsville attorney William Berry, who represents the former officers, could not be reached for comment.
J. Brian Manion, attorney for Freeburg, said, "The decision is significant because a neutral judge heard all of the testimony and reviewed all of the evidence and found the village proved that the officers engaged in misconduct and violated reasonable police department rules."
Another state arbitration session is scheduled to begin May 1 to "resolve grievances filed by the officers under the union collective bargaining agreement," Manion said.
Blomenkamp and Burrows have 30 days from the date the decision was issued to appeal to the state Board of Review.
In December, St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly stated that he would not pursue criminal charges against the two and commented that their conduct would cast a shadow over their testimony in any ongoing criminal case that they played a role.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2625.