CASEYVILLE — The agenda for Wednesday night's village board meeting indicated there would be a closed session to discuss police personnel matters.
To some residents, that meant another possible attempt by the board to fire Caseyville Police Chief Jose Alvarez. Apparently Alvarez thought so, too. Earlier in the day he asked St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn for a temporary restraining order to prevent the village board from going into executive session on police matters involving him.
McGlynn denied the restraining order, saying it was premature. In the end, the firing didn't happen. But the meeting wasn't without a few tense moments.
Several of the people who attended the meeting said the community is tired of all the negative publicly surrounding the police chief's fate.
Alvarez attended the meeting with his attorney.
Before the board moved into closed session, John Buckley, a Caseyville resident and police commissioner went to the podium and told Caseyville Mayor Leonard Black that it seems "there is a closed session every other meeting to try to get rid of our chief. I am not seeing a lot of things we ran on. What we campaigned on -- "Help Us Clean Up Caseyville" -- still means a lot to me," Buckley said.
Buckley said the ticket he ran on -- Candidates For A Better Caseyville -- had purchased about 1,500 bars of soap with the slogan "Help Us Clean Up Caseyville" on them.
"We ran on responsibility, accountability and service. I still feel that's what we are here for. You're voted in by people and that's who you have to work for -- the people who put you in," he said.
Buckley ran for trustee on the same ticket as Black. He did not win, however. Black told Buckley that he has had lots of ideas but he can't act on them without board support.
Buckley and another resident, Debbie Blaylock, told Black they believe he is being unduly influenced by Bob Romanik, a controversial radio show host who was convicted during the Tom Venezia gambling sting more than a decade ago. She said she wants the politics out of the police department and no outside influence in village politics.
Blaylock said she is worried about the village becoming run down and looking like neighboring cities that are plagued by drugs.
"Please don't allow us to become them. It's just down the street. They say they have no money to take care of broken windows and doors. There are doors hanging open and the streets are full of crackheads."
Village Clerk Rob Watt read a letter from longtime police clerk, Linda Parmeley, in support of Alvarez being let go so the department can move beyond its present chaotic state.
She said the police department has some wonderful police officers in it, but they come to work everyday not knowing what they're up against.
Parmeley said she has witnessed unnecessary outbursts from Alvarez.
And, in the last few months, "It has made me physically ill to come to work. I feel this is a losing battle. I am contemplating retirement,' she wrote.
She said Alvarez was rarely in the office and when he is "there is no calm or quiet, but there is a lot of gossiping and threats."
Alvarez was not available later to respond to Parmeley's comments.
Buckley said he believes a lot of the problem with Alvarez started when Alvarez came to the Police and Fire Board with a request to fire Steve Romanik, Bob Romanik's son.
Steve Romanik was fired a couple of weeks ago. The vote was unanimous. Besides Buckley, Don Staley and Police and Fire Board Chairman Jon Vieluf voted in favor of Romanik's firing.
The village has never stated publicly the reason for Romanik's firing, citing personel reasons.
Buckley said the board asked for documentation from the chief to support his request and he brought that documentation to the board.
"We got documentation from the chief and other individuals -- his own peers, fellow officers, who had filed reports. And, we felt he should be terminated after we reviewed the information" Buckley said
Buckley said the board didn't really need documentation to terminate Romanik because he was a probationary officer. "But, because of all of the things that are going on, we wanted to be sure that things were on the up and up," Buckley said.
He said the board did a lateral entry when it hired Romanik, whom he said had excellent test sores. "His test scores and paperwork all looked good. So, we hired him. But issues started arising after he was here for a few months." He did not give specifics.
Buckley said he thinks a lot of officers in the department don't like Alvarez because, "He makes them accountable."
After the meeting, Black said he was not influenced by Bob Romanik and declined to discuss Alvarez.