CASEYVILLE — Police Chief J. D. Roth, the subject of an ongoing grand jury investigation, was placed on paid administrative leave as of noon Monday.
The action by Mayor George Chance came after he conferred with the village attorney Al Paulson and two members of the village board. It was in response to a letter received Friday from State's Attorney Brendan Kelly asking that Roth be kept away from any involvement with police investigations, evidence or access to village computer records.
Kelly wrote that the investigation has raised concern about Roth's behavior that could work in favor of defense lawyers and undermine cases the village presents for prosecution.
"Regardless of the ultimate outcome of these proceedings, sufficient information has been presented thus far that raises serious questions about Mr. Roth's credibility as an officer at this time," the letter stated.
The letter continued, "The ability of my office to successfully prosecute cases for which he (Roth) is a witness is potentially weakened. I am legally bound to review any cases in which he is involved with scrutiny, which could result in case dismissals. This would be a tragic outcome for justice which we all no doubt wish to avoid."
Roth was advised that he cannot comment unless it first is reviewed by the village board. Kelly declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation.
"After reading the letter and seeing what the other police departments have done when there is an ongoing investigation of their police chief, they have put them on administrative lave. I feel that is what should happen here," said village trustee Rick Casey Jr. Casey was not a part of the village hall meeting held today.
Roth, who makes about $58,000 per year, is being investigated in connection with his alleged use of a 2003 Dodge Ram pickup truck that was seized as part of a drug investigation. According to copies of village records obtained by the Belleville New-Democrat, Roth put 65,000 miles on the vehicle for personal and police use and charged the village more than $6,000 in maintenance costs.
State law directs that vehicles seized in police operations must be sold by auction for the benefit of the public, unless such a vehicle is registered by the department and restricted solely to official use.
The documents obtained by the BND also show that, according to a notarized statement, Roth played a role in obtaining bids a certain price for the truck that was eventually purchased by a private dealer and resold to Roth. The purchase price was not available.
According to the newspaper's story last month, documents show that the 55-year-old Roth directed a village officer not to charge Roth's 28-year-old girlfriend, whose license was revoked, with felony drunken driving.
The same set of records showed that a Texas man who had been charged with drunken driving was not prosecuted even though he had posted $300 bail. According to a statement from a former police clerk, Roth directed that the man's money be mailed to him.
Also during Roth's term as police chief, $2,300 in cash seized during a drug investigation turned up missing from the department's evidence locker, according to a copy of the evidence log.
Kelly, in his letter to the village concerning Roth, said that past dealings with the chief have been, "nothing but appropriate," however since the investigation began, "concerns have resulted in investigations which are ongoing."
Kelly asked the village officials to prevent Roth from:
* Gathering evidence.
* Participating in any witness interview.
* Having access to "any village electronic or paper records while an investigation of Mr. Roth is underway."
Roth, at Kelly's request, is barred from entering the state's attorney's offices.