‘It was a cloud that was lingering over me’: Yates ready to move on after conclusion of investigation

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Top row from left, Adam Yates, Rob Copley and Barry Cheyne. Bottom row from left, Jeff Mays, Nick Hiland and Rick Stewart.

QUINCY — Each of them was frustrated they didn’t get a chance to tell their sides of the story.

But when they read the 283-page report on the investigation into complaints made against them, former Quincy Police Department Chief Rob Copley, current Chief Adam Yates and Barry Cheyne, chairman of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, all felt vindicated.

The report said Sgt. Nick Hiland of the Quincy Police Department met with Jeff Mays, director of administrative services, and Carrie Potter, director of human resources, on Nov. 14, 2022. Hiland alleged:

  • Copley and Yates disseminated and used an agency development proposal that was the proprietary information of Hiland;
  • The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners changed the criteria for applying for the position of chief of the Quincy Police Department to benefit Yates; 
  • Copley communicated directly with the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners to influence the three members to change the criteria for chief of the Quincy Police Department to allow Yates to apply.

Rick Stewart of the Stewart Law Firm in Springfield said in his report, made public on Wednesday, that Hiland’s claims were unfounded.

“I do think it’s important that we point out that the investigator only considered testimony from one or two individuals and not from myself, the commissioners involved in the process or the former police chief when he came to his conclusions,” Yates said. “There are some points in the report that I would have liked to have been able to address, but for him to come to the conclusions he did, I don’t think it was necessary.”

Yates was named chief of police on May 13, 2022 — 11 days after the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners selected Jonathan Lewin as the chief of police. However, Lewin eventually turned down the position. 

The results of Stewart’s investigation, which started in February, finally give Yates a chance to breathe a sigh of relief. 

“I’m not going to say I was worried about it because I was not concerned with anything that had taken place,” Yates said. “But it was a cloud that was lingering over me and the work that we needed to do. It’s good that we get this behind us.”

Copley said he never was notified about the allegations or that he was part of the investigation.

“The findings that they had to do not surprise me,” he said, “There’s information that’s not in (the report) that would help make it more clear, but for whatever reason, it’s not in the investigation. Basically it indicates to me that nothing was done wrong.”

Cheyne said the initial job announcement on Feb. 8 was intentionally more restrictive because the three commissioners (along with Steve Meckes and Mike McLaughlin) wanted to attract a more “senior” candidate to be the chief of police.

“If you’re going to talk about a process, it would seem a reasonable person would talk to the entity within the city of Quincy who owns the process,” Cheyne said. “We had to establish the rules and the process that we were going to use for the police chief search. It was fully vetted by the mayor, and others were informed. It wasn’t done by mistake.

“If you’re a fire and police commissioner, you take an oath to hire firefighters and police officers, and you take an oath to promote the best people within the department. If you look at the fire police chief only, sure, it has a lot more visibility, but the same principles apply. I believe the citizens of Quincy are pretty adamant about not changing that process. They want the independent, fair and equitable piece of the commission to do its job.”

Attempts to reach Hiland for comment Wednesday night were unsuccessful. However, he sent an email on Nov. 22 to each member of the Quincy City Council — two days after aldermen saw Stewart’s preliminary report in executive session — explaining he believed the report was missing important documents.

“I have become aware that it is possible that all the allegations contained within the complaint I made have not been addressed by Stewart’s report to the City Council,” the email said. “I suspect there are interviews completed during this investigation by Mr. Stewart that are not referenced in his report. Based upon speaking with those interviewed, I believe their information is relevant to the allegations contained in my complaint.”

Hiland sent aldermen a copy of his complaint and several documents he received from a Freedom of Information Act request and provided Stewart. (A copy of Hiland’s letter was one of the exhibits in Stewart’s report.)

“My intent is to make the council aware of the allegations and what information I believe to support those allegations to make the best decision,” he wrote.

Mike Farha (R-4th Ward), the longest-tenured alderman on the City Council, said he’s not worried about potential retaliation for Hiland. 

“At the end of the day, do I think this is a big deal? No,” Farha said. “We’ve had bigger deals that I’ve had to sit through and endure that were really trashy. This is more of just a structural thing in the city and how they went about all this. I think there are a lot of questions. Am I worried? No, I’m not worried.

“It’s like a fart in a windstorm. How big? Well, it stinks. … I don’t want to criticize (Quincy Mayor Mike) Troup on this. I don’t want to criticize Jeff (Mays, the director of administrative services). There’s enough to criticize everybody for, but I hope they’ve learned something from this. I think it’s a step in the right direction to clean up the process.”

Mays said that once the city’s legal staff and the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office declined to investigate Hiland’s complaint, the city was forced to go outside to find someone. He said he was determined to assure the investigation was done independently.

“If anybody wants proof of the independence, the only influence I tried to insert was to get it done quicker — and you can see how much influence I had,” Mays said. “I didn’t tell them who to call or what questions to ask. That is not an independent investigation for me to get involved in.

“From (the city’s) standpoint, we’ve accepted the findings. Let’s move on.”

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