Troup says changes in process to hire police chief ’step in right direction,’ but he wants more input

Troup and commissioners

Top row from left, Quincy Mayor Mike Troup and Barry Cheyne; Bottom row from left, Kerry Anders and Steve Meckes.

QUINCY — The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners released a timeline on Saturday showing a plan for a new chief of the Quincy Police Department to be announced at the May 16 meeting of the Quincy City Council.

The process to find the new police chief, however, will change slightly compared to the process used to hire a new fire chief last summer — but Mayor Mike Troup says the proposed changes aren’t enough.

The first item on the timeline was the posting of the job announcement for one month, which happened Friday. Aldermen and Troup received copies of the announcement and timeline on Saturday by email from commissioner Barry Cheyne.

A minimum of 15 years of experience as a sworn law enforcement officer is required for the position, with five years of supervisory experience and two years of command level experience. The chief directs a department with 87 full-time employees, with 73 sworn officers authorized, and a $14 million budget.

Police Chief Rob Copley is retiring May 6 after 42 years with the department, with 18 as chief. His salary for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2021, was $113,982, according to documents posted on the city’s website. The job post lists the annual salary range as “$95,000 to $105,000, commensurate with skills and experience.”

Troup: Commissioners ‘totally bypassed me’

Troup said the commissioners talked with then-Mayor Kyle Moore for input during last year’s process fo hire the fire chief.

“They totally bypassed me in getting things set up for the police chief,” he said in an interview Sunday afternoon. “I raised a point about the compensation. When we hired the fire chief, they had a minimum range which wasn’t low enough for people with no experience. So I said what we should do is put ‘commensurate with experience.’ If the best candidate you get really has no experience as chief, they should not be making as much as the chief who just retired. We talked about that when (the commissioners) hired the fire chief, and they said, ‘OK, fine, make a note.’

“Well, apparently they didn’t read that note before they put this information together. It sounded from Barry’s correspondence Saturday that this is a done deal. He’s got something in motion that he didn’t ask for input from the mayor or any of the aldermen or committees.”

Commissioners’ timetable includes IACP participation

The second item is the city’s approval for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Springfield, to help conduct a partial police executive search (receiving questionnaires and a full-day assessment). The earliest that approval can come is at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The commissioners sent a request to aldermen on Dec. 21 for the expenditure of $9,000 to the IACP to assist in the police chief search. Alderman sent the request fo the police aldermanic committee, consisting of chairman Mike Rein, R-5, Tony Sassen, R-4, and Kelly Mays, R-3. 

The IACP said Jan. 7 it would reduce the cost of the police chief executive search to $7,499. The police aldermanic committee has a meeting scheduled Monday, one hour before the City Council meets — and 56 days since Copley announced his intent to retire during the Dec. 13 meeting of the City Council. 

“We’re in a two-months quagmire,” Cheyne said after Friday’s meeting of the fire and police commissioners. “We can’t even get off square one without an announcement (of the job opening).”

“We’re going to move forward, even though (the process) is stuck in the police (aldermanic) committee,” commissioner Steve Meckes said.

The application deadline for the police chief’s job is March 8. Questionnaires will be sent to each applicant that day if aldermen approve $7,499 for the IACP’s help. The IACP’s review of the questionnaires will be from March 28 to April 11. The commissioners would then consult with the mayor to choose the finalists.

Police chief search to include community forum

The IACP would conduct a day-long assessment on April 21 that would be valued at 20 percent of a candidate’s score. The Illinois Fire Chiefs Association conducted a similar assessment last summer during the commissioners’ search for a new fire chief.

Each finalist would be in Quincy on May 11 for a luncheon, a tour of the city and a community forum. A community forum was not part of the search for the new fire chief.

“The community will have a chance to either call in or meet with the candidates and ask questions,” Cheyne said. 

The finalists would go through two sets of interviews on May 12. One will be with a stakeholder group comprising Mayor Mike Troup, a Republican alderman and a Democratic alderman (chosen by Troup) and two community leaders. The stakeholder group comprised Troup and four community leaders during the fire chief search.

The commissioners conduct the other set of interviews.

“(The stakeholder group has its) own set of questions posed to the candidates,” Cheyne said. “Then we do likewise in the afternoon with a whole different set of interviews and a whole different set of purpose.”

Stakeholders’ group score to count as much as commissioners’ score

Each group interview on May 12 is valued at 40 percent of the candidate’s score. The commissioners’ interviews were valued at 60 percent of the candidate’s score during the fire chief selection process. The stakeholders’ group was valued at 20 percent.

“The message after the fire chief search was that we don’t have the right level of involvement from those who, quote, work with the fire chief and the police chief day in and day out, even though by ordinance, both chiefs work day to day for the mayor,” Cheyne said. “If there’s a problem (with the police chief or the fire chief), it’s the mayor’s problem, not our problem, unless he brings it to us as a problem. 

“You want the involvement (in the hiring process)? Here it is. But let’s still do this the right way. Let’s just make sure we have a fair process that looks at all candidates. Anybody who applies has as a valid chance to be the police chief as the next person.”

Troup outlined a proposal during a Sept. 7 meeting of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners to change the selection process. He laid out his plan to aldermen at the Oct. 4 meeting, but Troup proposed to table the ordinance for the second time. Aldermen defeated the motion to table by an 8-6 vote.

Richie Reis, D-6, then called for an immediate vote on Troup’s proposal. It died for a lack of a second. Aldermen then voted to table the proposed ordinance “indefinitely.”

Troup doesn’t want IACP to ‘have say about final selection’

Troup’s plan called for the mayor to work with aldermen to present a budget and a time schedule, as well as determine if a search for the chief would include only internal candidates or a search outside the department. The mayor’s office would then post the opening, and applications for the job would come to the mayor’s office. The mayor’s executive assistant and the city’s human resources officer would screen the applications and forward the best applicants to the fire and police commissioners to ensure they meet qualifications. 

A committee comprising the mayor, one Democratic alderman, one Republican alderman, one of the commission members and an at-large person would then interview the applicants.

Asked about the changes to the interview process, Troup replied, “That’s moving in the right direction, but I don’t think anyone outside of Quincy should have a final say of who the next chief is. I think the commissioners and some combination of the mayor and city council ought to make up 100% of the vote. We hire the IACP to come up with a test and grade the test. That’s what we should pay them for. That’s what they should do. They shouldn’t have a say about the final selection.”

Troup expressed frustration with the commissioners’ selection of Bernie Vahlkamp as fire chief during the Sept. 7 meeting. When commissioner Kerry Anders asked if Troup was unhappy with their selection, Troup said he didn’t think Vahlkamp was the top candidate. 

“The other two finalists had more administrative leadership experience in a fire department. Bernie did not,” Troup said at that meeting. “When I asked, ‘Why did you pick Bernie over the other two?’, Barry told me, ‘Personality.’ Well, I didn’t see personality on the job description or the responsibilities.”

Anders plans to ask for reappointment to board

Cheyne says the involvement of the IACP in the interview process, including giving them 20 percent of a candidate’s score, has value.

“The IACP has a whole regimen that they run all the finalists through in Quincy,” he said. “It’s fair, it’s equitable and it’s a process. It keeps out the perception that there’s a lot of politics involved in selecting the next police chief, while at the same time allowing members of the council and the mayor to participate in the process.

“We invited the mayor to our commission meetings in November and December, and we broached the subject (of changing the interview process). Did we hang all the meat on the bone like we have now? No, but we haven’t had any feedback … since July 9 when we selected Bernie (as the new fire chief).

“We’re following the ordinance. We still make the final selection, then inform the mayor and the city council.”

The three-year term for Anders expires in March. Cheyne said commissioners whose terms are expiring typically contact the mayor to show their interest in a reappointment. Anders has not contacted Troup, but he said Friday he plans to do so and remains interested in being on the board.

“(Troup) has to nominate the re-employment, in this case of Kerry, to the council,” Cheyne said. “If he doesn’t bring it forward, then there’s no reappointment.”

Moore appointed Meckes, Anders and Cheyne to the board in March 2014 after Charlie Doan, David Ayers and Dick Wentura resigned two months earlier.

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