CASEYVILLE — Caseyville Police Chief Jose Alvarez will keep his job for now after the village board decided not to remove him Wednesday.
Mayor Leonard Black twice tried to fire Alvarez and the village board has twice voted to keep him. In previous village board meetings, Alvarez shouted at Black and went nose-to-nose with the interim chief. Two weeks ago, attorneys for the village reached an agreement with Alvarez that there would be no more hiring or firing until the village board meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.
After a closed session discussion Wednesday, Black announced that the village board's consensus was to take no action, and that Alvarez would be "given a second chance.
"We're all going to work together to make Caseyville a better place to live," Black said.
Before the board went into closed session to decide his fate, Alvarez told village officials he is "first and foremost an advocate" for the residents of Caseyville.
During Alvarez's outburst at the February meeting, he shouted that former Washington Park police chief and now radio talk show host Bob Romanik actually ran the village police department. In a letter from the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, union field representative Mark Rusillo wrote that he had grave concerns about the department. In another letter, village attorney John Gilbert alleged that Alvarez lied to the Board of Police Commissioners in his petition to terminate probationary officer Steve Romanik, who is Bob Romanik's son.
A huge crowd gathered Wednesday for the village board meeting, in which Alvarez told the board his goal has always been to do his best to make the community safer and stronger.
"My goal will be to continue to work for and with the citizens of this wonderful community to make Caseyville the kind of villae we all hope it can and should be," Alvarez said. "No one, I repeat, no one should thwart our progress in the building of this community. No matter how much money or political influence they may possess, no one should feel that he or she must cater to the needs of these people out of fear, intimidation, or false promises."
Looking at the board, Alvarez said "true community officials serve the people of the community, not an individual."
When Black read the board's decision, the crowd, which numbered at least 125 people, burst into applause.
Alvarez told the board he has done his best to serve the people of the community since he accepted the job as chief, and that he hoped to continue as chief.
"Only when all of us, the board, the mayor, myself and other elected and appointed officials, align our values, our goals and our morals to serve the great people of Caseyville can we achieve success," he said. "With your continued support, the citizens of Caseyville, esteemed members of the board and fellow officials in this room, let us please work together to do what is right for the village and its people."
After the board's decision was announced, Black said he felt he and Alvarez could work together constructively. Alvarez said he felt "great, absolutely great" about the board's decision, and he plans to move forward with unifying his department and with other projects.
As the residents waited for the board's decision, long-time resident John Dougherty said the entire situation was "childish." He supported the police chief. "Police work needs to be police work, and politics needs to be politics; let the man do his job," he said.
Resident Grace Brooke said she is "very sad" about the situation. "I feel that we need to work together and grow up and stop acting like kids," she said. "I've lived here for 53 years, I love Caseyville and I wouldn't move for the world. I would just like us to get along. Mayor Black is a good mayor, and a lot of good things have happened in the last year, and a lot of good things can be happening in the future."
Lucy Skibinski said she wants to see the village retain the chief and to work together. "He's a good man," she said.
Mark Kraft, second vice president of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, said he's known Alvarez for 32 years. He said Alvarez was an honorable, had integrity and was a professional. "The FOP does not take its leadership lightly," he said.
Kraft said he disagreed with the letter from Rusillo. "That's not the feeling of a lot of police officers," Kraft said. "There's no room for politics in police work."
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.