Cahokia mayor casts deciding vote to restructure police department

News-DemocratJune 27, 2014 

— In an effort to get more police officers on the street, Mayor Gary Cornwell said he initiated an ordinance that restructures the lieutenants and captains in the police department and changes salaries.

But some city officials think it is both a personal and political move that violates a management contract agreement with the police department that was in effect until 2015. Frank Bergman was mayor at the time this agreement was approved by the Village Board.

When board members voted on the ordinance this week, they were deadlocked at 3-3 and Cornwell cast the deciding vote.

Cornwell said ordinance 1267 establishes the maximum number of captains and lieutenants and the amount of money they will be paid.

Cornwell said this ordinance brings Cahokia in line with the Fraternal Order of Police contract.

"It says the department can have one captain and two lieutenants minimum and one captain and three lieutenants maximum. The captain will be paid $85,000 per year. The lieutenants will be paid $76,000 a year."

Before the ordinance changed things in the police department, there were two captains and two lieutenants: Capt. Larry Turcell, Capt. Dave Landmann, Lt. Dennis Plew and Lt. Gary Brewer.

These officers declined to comment.

Also, Police Chief James Jones declined to comment, saying that the matter was a personnel issue and that he is barred from speaking about it. Consequently, it was not immediately clear how the restructuring would affect Turcell, Landmann, Plew and Brewer.

An exact amount of salary changes for the lieutenants and captains was not available.

Cornwell said the passage of the ordinance made the changes effective immediately.

"I'll send a letter to the chief of police instructing him to do the realignment," Cornwell said.

Cornwell said currently there are about 17 officers on the street and more police officers on the street are necessary to make sure residents are as safe as possible.

"It's the financially responsible thing to do. We need to be able to put more police officers on the street. Our ultimate goal is safety," Cornwell said.

Trustees Joe Weatherford, Jerry Nichols and Myra Gummersheimer voted for the ordinance.

Trustees Courtney Moore, Phyllis Pearson and Kathi Carrico voted against it.

Pearson said the outcome was disappointing.

"It wasn't broke, so why try to fix it? The police department was doing fine," Pearson said. "He waited nine months before his term is up to do something about it -- why?"

Pearson, who is the only remaining trustee who was on the board when a management personnel contract was approved, said she believes ordinance 1267 violates the contract that was approved April 15, 2011, and is valid through 2015. The contract is the same one that has been approved every three years since 1995.

After the meeting those who voted in favor of the ordinance left the meeting immediately and they could not be reached for comment.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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