City employees were surprised Wednesday morning with a drug test when they arrived at work.
City officials said they felt it was time to do a random test in light of the recent situations involving Fire Department Lt. Khari Sharp, who was charged in Texas with possession of marijuana. A Texas trooper also allegedly found $50,000 cash on him. The case against him in Texas is pending.
The East St. Louis Police and Fire Board voted last week to terminate Sharp, who had been employed with the city for nearly 10 years.
Another situation that prompted the city to do the urine testing involved former East St. Louis police detective Orlando Ward. The 41-year-old, who worked with the city for about 12 years, was caught up in a drug conspiracy case. He, along with six others, were charged in the federal system.
Ward was charged with possession with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. He is in a federal lockup, awaiting a July 8 trial.
Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. said employees did not know about the tests, and that's the way it is supposed to work.
"You very seldom announce that you are doing a random drug test," Parks said.
While he would not confirm whether any one of the city employees tested dirty, Parks said questionable urine samples were sent to the laboratory inside Memorial Hospital in Belleville.
Asked when he expected the final results to be available to the city, Parks said he was not sure of the time frame. So without the final results in his hand, Parks refused to say how many samples were suspect or who they belonged to.
"I am not going to comment on how many there were or who they were. I will say that the city of East St. Louis tries to have a drug-free work environment with everyone having as clear of a mind and body as possible. We want them to give the best efforts they can deliver when it comes to the citizens," Parks said.
Parks said he was not surprised that there were some questionable test results.
Parks is hopeful that the random urine tests serve as a warning that there will be more unannounced testing.
The purpose of the tests was "to hopefully put everyone on notice that you never know when the city will do drug tests," Parks said.
New hires in the city must pass a drug test, he said. But the city was overdue to spring a random test on employees, Parks said.
"We wanted to emphasize to all employees that everyone is expected to remain drug free while they are employees with the city of East St. Louis," Parks said.
City Manager Deletra Hudson also would not confirm the number of questionable tests. She said a person from Midwest Occupational, which is located inside Memorial Hospital in Belleville, did the urine tests and the results should be available to the city by early next week.
After that, she said she will be happy to talk about the results, how many employees failed and what disciplinary action the city will take for those who failed. Hudson said employees in every department at City Hall, with the exception of the fire Department was tested. The Fire Department was exempt from the city's test because "of their contractual constraints on us to do random tests on their personnel," Hudson said.
"We expect to hear something early next week," she said.
Hudson said it is nothing new for the city to do drug testing. She and Parks both said the recent testing was escalated in light of the situations with Ward and Sharp.