Metro-East News

Alorton mayor charged with violating whistle blower law by demoting cop

Mayor Joann Reed has been charged with demoting a police sergeant in retaliation for him testifying in an investigation that may have targeted her for allegedly buying votes.

According to the recent criminal complaint, Reed, 59, who was arraigned on a vote-buying count in January 2016, “performed an act which she knew was forbidden by law ... in that she committed the offense of official misconduct” by knowingly violating the state Whistle Blower Act, a felony.

According to the criminal complaint, Reed demoted Sgt. Leon Hughes “in retaliation for his testimony in a proceeding where (Hughes) had reasonable cause to believe that the information in this testimony disclosed a violation of state or federal law.”

It’s not specifically known whether Hughes’ testimony concerned the vote-buying charges pending against Reed. That case is set for a Jan. 13 status hearing in St. Clair County Circuit Court. Reed has pleaded not guilty.

Alorton Mayor Joann Reed Derik Holtmann

Reached Thursday, Reed declined to comment on her pending charges.

“I’m literally almost speechless,” she said. “I think it’s best I don’t comment, as much as I’d like to. I just don’t think it’s in my best interest...The last thing I want to do is add to this mess.”

Hughes could not be reached.

State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly declined to comment on an ongoing court case.

Reed was arrested Friday. She was not in custody at the jail on Monday, but no bond amount appears in the court records.

The state Whistle Blower Act states: “An employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal law.”

Reed pleaded guilty in 2013 to a felony charge of bringing contraband into the village’s police department jail to aid a relative who was being held on an assault charge. Court records state the contraband included a cellular phone.

After the plea, Reed was removed from her job as records clerk for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department and resigned as mayor of Alorton. But her plea included treatment for a substance abuse issue which she completed, allowing her record to be wiped clean. With a clean record, she successfully ran for mayor a second time and won.

In July, by a vote of 4-2, village trustees turned over all authority for hiring and firing to Reed. Trustee Gwen McCallum who voted against the measure, said at the time, “We don’t have any idea who gets paid what.”

Reed said shortly after the measure passed, “I think everyone has enough trust in me that I can make the decisions.”

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk