Frustrated aldermen table report on hiring process for police chief for second week; former commissioner questions investigation

Kerry Anders before Council 12112023

Kerry Anders, a former Fire and Police Commissioner, addressed aldermen during the public forum at the beginning of Monday’s meeting. | Photo courtesy of City of Quincy Facebook livestream

QUINCY — Votes on a report and a resolution that have attracted great interest during recent meetings of the Quincy City Council both were tabled for a second time Monday night.

A report from Springfield attorney Rick Stewart about an internal complaint filed during the hiring process for the chief of the Quincy Police Department has not yet been received by the city. Aldermen got their first look at Stewart’s report during the Nov. 20 City Council meeting.

The official filing of the report, however, continues to be delayed.

A vote to pay a $15,000 success fee to NextSite, a commercial development advisory firm, for its role in bringing Planet Fitness to Quincy was on Monday’s agenda. However, aldermen quickly tabled that vote again with little discussion. Alderman Jack Holtschlag (D-7) moved to table the vote to “allow other council members to get in and look at the papers.”

Plenty was discussed, however, concerning Stewart’s report.

A complaint was received by a whistleblower — a city of Quincy employee — in November 2022 about the selection process of the chief of the Quincy Police Department, which took place during the spring of 2022. Deputy Chief Adam Yates eventually was promoted to the position after John Lewin rejected an offer from the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners.

A whistleblower complaint typically is confidential information provided about activity within a private or public organization deemed possibly illegal, immoral, illicit, unsafe or fraudulent. Jeff Mays, director of administrative services, reached out to Stewart after the city’s own legal staff and the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office were asked to investigate the whistleblower complaint — but both declined. 

When asked for an update on Stewart’s report, Quincy Mayor Mike Troup replied, “We have not received any report. I know Jeff Mays (director of administrative services) has reached out to the investigator, left messages. We need to get this report completed. He’s doing some other work locally. We’re trying to reach him to get this thing put to bed, but we haven’t received it.”

“How long’s it going to take?” Dave Bauer (D-2) asked.

“We had him report on executive session three weeks ago. He was going to do it in a week,” Troup said. 

“I think we need to get this settled for everybody’s sake,” Bauer said.

“We agree,” Troup said,

Jeff Bergman (R-2) then asked for a running total on the expenses for the investigation. Mays said the total was “between $17,000 and $18,000 if the bill that is in front of you tonight is paid.”

“We unfortunately authorized up to $25,000 in expenses. So are we going to string this out until he gets to $25,000, then he’s going to have it finalized for us?” Bergman asked. “What are we doing?”

“I don’t believe that to be the case,” Mays replied. “As I indicated two weeks ago, after the council heard the report in executive session, the anticipation was he was going to be doing minor grammatical and appendix additions, and that was it. That’s why I put it on the agenda last week and again today.”

“I strongly suggest you reach out to him and explain to him what ‘minor’ is in his version as opposed to our version, because ‘minor’ means this should have been done by now,” Bergman said. “I’m getting tired of this.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Mays said.

Mays then recommended the council not pay a bill for $4,281 for work Stewart did last month. 

“I want to get this report out of here and accept it and to the public as quick as we can,” he said. “Maybe that’ll help motivate him.”

Aldermen later agreed not to pay Stewart’s most recent invoice.

Mays asked to keep the report on the agenda each week until he receives it.

“I don’t mind coming up here and telling you I’m embarrassed that this is taking too long,” he said. “I don’t mind doing it every week until we can finally get (the report) here. This is troubling to me, as well as to you.”

Mike Rein (R-5) said he was tired of seeing the report on the agenda. Mays then agreed to allow the report to remain tabled indefinitely unless it was received by Thursday.

Kerry Anders, a former Fire and Police Commissioner, addressed aldermen during the public forum at the beginning of Monday’s meeting. Troup chose not to retain him after Anders’ three-year term expired in January 2022. Aldermen approved Mike McLaughlin in February 2022 to replace Anders. McLaughlin joined commissioners Barry Cheyne and Steve Meckes to whittle the field of 15 initial candidates to five.

Anders was a commissioner when he said the board received a phone call from Troup to “talk about the standards” with other members of the police union and that the board’s standards were “too high.”

“They really thought … we would not get very many people from our own Quincy Police Department to qualify,” Anders said. “So reluctantly, maybe it’s something we shouldn’t have done, we changed our standards. We more or less watered them down so that more people from QPD could qualify for the standards. We did what the mayor wanted. In retrospect, we never should have done it. We never would have been here. I don’t think that this would have happened.”

Anders said the city has no procedures or guidelines to process the complaints. He said the lack of procedures and guidelines led to personal influences and steering of complaints rather than a published formal process. He said the cost of legal expenses related to the investigation, capped at $25,000 and approved by aldermen, “gives the appearance to the public that the city administration didn’t want regular visibility placed on investigation procedures.”

“Why did Mr. Stewart feel it wasn’t important to talk to the commission about the police hiring process?” Anders asked. “It seems like the report’s incomplete if that doesn’t happen. The whistleblower complaint appears to be more of a personal vendetta against the current police chief than any violation of any federal law.”

Anders then addressed the initial report aldermen reviewed during an executive session on Nov. 20.

“It was given to the council, and I think it was even given to the whistleblower, because the whistleblower wrote a letter to each council member refuting what (Stewart) had in his partial report. Now how does that happen?” he said. “There’s a thing, when you get a report, called discovery. You’d think the commission could get a partial report, too.”

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