Caseyville chief, mayor return to their corners; next bout March 19

News-DemocratMarch 7, 2014 

Jose Alvarez is still the Caseyville Police chief, at least until March 19, which is when the Village Board meets.

Attorney for the village and Alvarez reached an agreement Friday morning that there would be no more hiring or firing of Alvarez until the Village Board meets again.

Mayor Leonard Black twice tried to fire Alvarez, the board twice voted to keep him and Alvarez shouted at Black and went nose to nose with the interim chief during a Village Board meeting Feb. 19.

At a court hearing Friday on a temporary injunction, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn said he was not going to issue an order regarding whether Alvarez should remain on the job. He said the agreement between the two sides takes care of the problem for now.

"My overriding concern is that there be continuity and no confusion as to the chain of command. We can't have a situation where people don't know who the chief of police is," McGlynn said. "The Police Department should be known for its professionalism and not its politics."

Last month, Black fired Alvarez, but the board voted unanimously to keep him, saying that Black did not follow the proper protocol. Black, as mayor, can hire who he wants as chief, but he has to have the blessing of the board. And, to fire him, he has to go before the board as well.

During a board meeting in February, Alvarez shouted at Black and went nose to nose with the interim chief. During the video-taped rant, Alvarez shouted at Black that former Washington Park police chief and now radio talk show host Bob Romanik actually ran the village police department.

Romanik said later, "Ask every police officer there. They will tell you the true story. Not only do I not run the police department, Alvarez has proven to everyone he is not capable of running the police department. That's Alvarez's style. He tries to pass the blame on to everybody else."

Romanik said Alvarez is mad at him because he has exposed him for not doing his job on his local radio show.

Alvarez was hired in September after the suicide of former chief J.D. Roth. Roth was facing felony charges for using and then making a deal to buy a pickup seized by his officers during a drug bust.

The Alvarez issue has been a hot one for the last several weeks and Wednesday at the village's committee meeting, a huge crowd turned out, fully expecting to hear what Alvarez's fate would be. Some wanted to express their opinions on whether Alvarez should stay or go.

But, it didn't quite happen that way. Black opened the meeting reading a prepared statement that said, "As you all are aware, Chief Alvarez served the village with a temporary restraining order concerning his employment. The court order and personnel issues prevent me from addressing anything concerning Chief Alvarez during this meeting."

Board members declined to say where they stand on the Alvarez issue, saying they have to adhere to the restraining order.

At the meeting, Alvarez said that he has had to deal with some officers who do not like him. Alvarez said he had learned that some of them were thinking of taking a vote of no confidence against him and that they had gone to the Fraternal Order of Police to complain about him.

He said he implemented new policies and procedures and in his absence, the interim chief, Sgt. Frank Moore, told the officers they did not have to follow them.

"Nobody wanted me to be here except you, Alvarez said, talking to the mayor. "The department is so young. They don't know from day to day whether I am going to be the chief or not," he said.

Moore could not be reached for comment.

One resident, Candi Eaves, lit into the mayor and the board telling them that instead of the transparency they promised her when she worked hard to get four of them elected, they were playing politics and bowing to political favors.

"Len I told you I was in your corner. I told you that I wanted the police department cleaned up and wanted the two warring factions healed or gotten rid of. You gave us your word. That's why we sought a chief from the outside. I don't believe the board has had time to turn the city around from our previous administrations."

Alvarez said the mayor was letting someone else influence him into telling him what to do. But, he declined to discuss the matter further because of pending litigation.

Alvarez made it a point to say to the people in the room that he didn't have a gun on him and was not going to shoot anyone. "This is Caseyville, not Kirkwood," he said, a reference to a shooting in City Council chambers in Kirkwood, Mo., in 2008.

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