It appears the former police chief has been demoted because he paid for safety repairs to a police vehicle himself, when he couldn’t get funds from the city.
The Belleville Civil Service Commission met at 9 a.m. Nov. 14 to consider the appeal of Gene Taylor, who on Oct. 30 had been demoted from police chief to corporal.
Taylor was represented by Belleville attorney Tom DiPietro at the “Employee Appeal of Disciplinary Actions” meeting.
DiPietro said he had no documents from the city whatsoever and City Manager Diana Kollmeyer said she would have City Clerk/Treasurer Lisa Long make him copies.
DiPietro said the commission has the power to subpoena witnesses to testify and he asked that it subpoena two witnesses. He also asked that Michael Loria, chairman of the commission, recuse himself because his father is on the city council that demoted Taylor.
The commission is made up of Michael Loria, Roy Acho, and Don Bluhm.
Bluhm said he received no information on the issue until he arrived at the meeting that morning. His packet was waiting on the edge of a table.[There was no packet for the press and so the Independent formally requested the materials under the Freedom of Information Act and was still waiting for the information as the paper went to press on Tuesday.]
“I was not notified within a 24- or 48-hour period,” Bluhm said, adding, “I have received no information on any disciplinary action against an employee.”
DiPietro said he would like to see Police Cpl. Todd Schrecengost called as a witness because he believes Schrecengost was the source of the charges.
He said the second witness would be Fred Wanderwege (Dorn), who owns the F&R Automotive repair shop.
“First-hand information is better than the second-hand information from the city manager,” DiPietro said.
“Your client did not deny he had repairs done and was paying $49 a month,” said the city’s attorney John Hitchcock.
DiPietro said the charges were made to get rid of Chief Taylor because he is too old.
Hitchcock laughed at this.
DiPietro said it is untrue that Fred told the city manager that Taylor told him he had city council approval for a personal installment plan for safety repairs to a city vehicle.
“Why did it take one-and-a-half years for this heinous event to come to light?” DiPietro asked.
DiPietro said Chief Taylor was returning to work with results of a medical exam where his doctor that said he was clear to go back to work.
But the city sent him to an insurance examining doctor, although Taylor was not claiming disability, DiPietro said. This doctor OKed him, as well.
This dragged on for six weeks culminating in his demotion, DiPietro said.
“They expected him to retire, quit. He didn’t,” DiPietro said.
DiPietro said as a corporal, Taylor returned to his bargaining unit with years of seniority and the union wouldn’t let him in.
“The whole scheme was to get him out on retirement,” DiPietro repeated.
Hitchcock said it was his recommendation not to discipline Taylor when he was off on medical leave.
“I think it was her idea,” DiPietro said, referring to Kollmeyer, “and you went along with it.”
Kollmeyer said the charges were delivered to the commission members and Taylor the previous Thursday.
Hitchcock said the commission does have the ability to subpoena witnesses and the hearing could be delayed.
“I have no objection to adjourning for witnesses,” Hitchcock said.
DiPietro asked that the two witnesses be called along with information on when Schrecengost gave the information about the April 2011 repair of an auto.
DiPietro said the city manager said she personally contacted Fred and he said that Chief Taylor told him he had city council approval.
“That’s misrepresentation and that’s serious,” DiPietro said, adding there was no charge he intentionally misrepresented the situation.
DiPietro said the discipline was inappropriate. He said if the intent is to get a civil service employee to follow the rules, a probationary status would be better than a demotion.
“Civil Service or POAM. He’s a man without a country right now,” DiPietro said.
“It’s got to be rebutted because it’s untrue,” DiPietro said.
He said to the commission, “It doesn’t mean you can’t uphold the discipline … But you should hear the witnesses.”
DiPietro also repeated that he wants to address Loria’s status and he said he will definitely bring up the one-and-a-half year delay in the charges.
DiPietro said on Sept. 13 Taylor gave his doctor’s OK to return to work to the city and he didn’t get contacted for a meeting until Oct. 23. The meeting, set for Oct. 29, with Kollmeyer [and Mayor Kerreen Conley], turned into a prosecution, he said.
“That’s a lot to correct an employee’s action,” DiPietro said of the demotion.
DiPietro also asked if Hitchcock is going to testify that it was his idea to wait for prosecution and Hitchcock said he is not intending to testify.
Acho made a motion, seconded by Loria to issue subpoenas to the two witnesses named and meet again in three weeks, at 9 a.m. Dec. 11. Acho, Loria, and Bluhm voted unanimously in favor.
DiPietro also asked to see his client’s personnel records and after the meeting he was allowed to see them.