Metro-East News

Cahokia mayor says felons deserve village jobs, second chance

Police forcibly remove Cahokia Village Trustee Jerry Nichols

Cahokia Mayor Curtis McCall Jr. was just found in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act for having village police forcibly remove a woman who wanted to make a comment at the Aug. 25 meeting. Then in November he had Trustee Jerry Nichols remo
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Cahokia Mayor Curtis McCall Jr. was just found in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act for having village police forcibly remove a woman who wanted to make a comment at the Aug. 25 meeting. Then in November he had Trustee Jerry Nichols remo

Cahokia Mayor Curtis McCall hired convicted felons for village jobs, said a trustee who was recently booted from a village meeting.

McCall says he has hired people who will do the right thing and help move his vision for the village forward.

Trustee Jerry Nichols said he has been asking McCall where he is getting the money to pay all of the people he has recently hired in the village, and he can’t get an answer. He is also upset, because he says the mayor “is hiring all of these convicted felons.”

McCall said he has told Nichols the money has been appropriated, and it is there to pay employees. “I don’t see anything wrong with giving people a second chance,” he said. “And the people Mr. Nichols is referring to were not convicted of violent offenses.

“I don’t think it is fair to keep these people from taking care of their families when there is an opportunity to help them,” McCall said. “And, also, these are people who will do the right thing and who will help me do the job I was elected to do. Even our president is looking at prison reform because of the label (convicted felon) that is attached to people and keeps them from getting hired on jobs for non-violent offenses. Sometimes people make mistakes. My mother has worked in law enforcement for 20-plus years and my father for 25-plus years. And, they raised me to give people a second chance when you have the opportunity.”

Under Gary Cornell, the previous mayor, Nichols said, the village “scraped to make payroll. Over a half million dollars has been put in there since he’s (McCall) come in. So, I would like to know where he is getting this money.”

And, until he get an answer to that question, Nichols said he will not sit down, referring to his being removed from the most recent board meeting by the police.

McCall said Nichols was asked several times to sit down so the meeting could continue, and he would not. Video showed police officers removing Nichols.

“It was a legal question. I had a right to ask. I was not out of line,” Nichols said.

McCall said he has answered Nichols’ questions each time.

“At every meeting a group of individuals come to disrupt the meeting. They feed off of Nichols. That’s why we have the rules that we have. They still have not gotten over the April election, which I won. I am the mayor for all of our residents,” McCall said. “The individuals who are being disruptive have it in their heads that they are going to disrupt the meeting by any means necessary. This is a new generation with new ideas and who want to make new progress for the village.”

McCall said he has not silenced anyone. He gives them an opportunity to have their say and he moves on.

Nichols said McCall has passed an ordinance that allows him to hire and fire people without bringing it before the board.

McCall said he re-enacted an ordinance that was already on the books that allows the mayor to hire and fire and run the day-to-day operations without bringing it before the board.

“The ordinance was repealed in 2009. I just re-enacted it,” McCall said.

Referring to the sometimes chaotic village meetings, McCall said if he didn’t have rules in place, the board could never take care of village business. He said he simply wants to do the job he was elected to do, and he hopes that will happen soon at the village meetings.

Nichols said he’s not trying to make trouble for the mayor. “I am for the village. I am not there to start trouble. He (McCall) said my question was a personnel question. It wasn’t. I read my agenda. I see a name there and want to know what’s going on,” Nichols said. “Monday, he fired all of the people at the fitness center. And, he held a special meeting at 10 a.m.”

Nichols said he doesn’t understand how people with full-time jobs were able to attend a morning meeting.

Nichols said Cahokia is a union town and the people McCall hired can not be in the union.

“I think they’re trying to break the union,” Nichols said.

Nichols also said McCall is trying to break the bank. He hired Betty Sharp as finance manager at $2,800 every two weeks for a total of $67,000 a year; Francella Jackson at $67,000 a year; Debbie Duncan, the current clerk’s wife, at $32,000 a year; and Ralph Wofford lll at $29.50 an hour.

“Monday, last week, he (McCall) posted 14 union jobs and then took them down and hired in two people this Monday. He’s hiring everybody who helped him in his campaign,” Nichols said.

McCall said Nichols didn’t say anything when his wife was working for and getting paid by the village.

And, “he didn’t say anything when the former mayor hired people into union jobs after he had lost the election. That move was made to keep me from bringing in anybody who I wanted to hire,” McCall said. “Mayor Cornwell fired eight people and I hired some of them back, and they were not told why they were fired. And, he never had a problem after the former mayor appointed his father Fred Cornwell to run the golf course. And, we have brought in thousands of dollars more every month since I have been in office.”

Nichols is also concerned McCall works a full-time job at the Cahokia School District and is never at city hall.

McCall said he is at city hall, but maybe not when Nichols expects him to be. Any questions or concerns Nichols has, McCall said he is happy to oblige. But he said he doesn’t think Nichols wants things to run smoothly.

He said, “I think I am in the best place I can be... dealing with our kids. Many of them have expressed to me that they don’t feel they’re a part of this village. This is probably one of the best things that could happen to a community. Everyone who lives here is a part of the village. I work for every resident,” McCall said.

He said the mayor’s job is part time. However, he puts in a lot of hours because he wants to see Cahokia “become the happy, fun place that business owners, families, children and every resident enjoyed at one time.”

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503