Public Watchdog.org

Here’s Your Hat, Jeff, What’s Your Hurry?

02.27.08

Last week the long-anticipated resignation of Park Ridge Police Chief Jeff Caudill became a reality.  But like so many things that happen in local government dominated by the Culture of Secrecy, Caudill’s departure raises a lot of unanswered questions.

Let’s be frank here: Caudill is clearly not everybody’s cup of tea, but that makes him no different from thousands upon thousands of other employees and bosses in both the public and private sectors.  There also have been some troubling allegations of misconduct by officers under his command, the truth of which will likely be played out in the courts and in the results of the upcoming police department audit.

But police work is not always a neat and easy job, even in a relatively low-crime community such as ours.  The line between a measured response and misconduct is sometimes a fine one.  While the buck rightly stops at the desk of the top official in the organization for purposes of accountability, how well the department is managed and how professionally it operates is not easy to objectively measure.

Which is why Caudill’s resignation at this juncture is even more puzzling. 

As we previously reported, it had been rumored for some time that he was being forced out for political reasons unrelated to his job performance.  And with City Mgr. Tim Schuenke departing this Friday, Caudill may not have wanted to take a chance on who his next boss will be – especially considering it will be a Mayor Frimark appointee.  A more recent rumor added the possibility that Caudill had been promised some significant additional compensation to “go quietly” now rather than later.

While we are concerned about the allegations against various members of the PRPD and look forward to their resolution, we have no axe to grind with Chief Caudill.  None of those allegations, to our knowledge, were directed at him personally, and at this time we are aware of no facts that establish his involvement or encouragement of the acts complained about. 

Nevertheless, if there truly is good cause to terminate Chief Caudill for misconduct, incompetence, or the myriad other lawful reasons available to an employer in the State of Illinois, rewarding him with a hearty severance package at the taxpayers’ expense seems irresponsible.  And if there is not good cause to terminate him, then using those same tax dollars to bribe him to resign reeks of politics of the very worst kind.

Unfortunately, the City Council once again has kept the taxpayers – who will end up footing the bill for whatever the outcome – in the dark by conducting all of these discussions about Caudill and his resignation/termination package in closed session, even though there is nothing in the Illinois Open Meetings Act that requires closed sessions or mandates that these machinations be kept secret.  

But then again, when you’re pushing someone off a ledge – or dangling a wad of cash just beyond his reach to get him to jump – you probably don’t want any witnesses.

9 comments so far

You guys are right about this Caudill deal being kinky. Today’s Journal is reporting that Caudill will get a 4% “merit increase” and another 4% (total: 8%, or an additional $10,000) added to his $129,000 salary, and then six months (almost $70,000) of severance pay!

Won’t that extra $10,000 of salary increase jack up his pension? Guess we get to keep paying (through higher pension payments) for a guy who either should have been fired for cause or should still be on the job. Sounds like yet another sweetheart deal from the Frimark administration.

When I read your article I was almost feeling sorry for Caudill, but from what the Journal is reporting (per Anonymous) I’m starting to think that Caudill and Schuenke (and Frimark?) worked out a really sweet deal for good old chiefee.

This whole thing is very troublesome. Caudill may not have been the greatest thing since sliced bread but who is? We have watched as Frimark has systematically pillaged the taxpayers of this town while telling us how with a straight face how much better we will be. I guess we should not expect more from him.

This however crosses an entirely new frontier for him. It’s one thing to steal from the taxpayers. It’s whole other thing to place the public safety and welfare in jeopardy.

I am more upset and angry about how this has happened than I expected to be. It doesn’t make sense from any reasonable position, until you consider it in the light of Frimark’s continuing power grabs and kingdom building.

Such a deal…Caudill gets paid off to “retire” because there’s no good reason to fire him but somebody (I wonder who?) wants to get rid of him. Then we get to pay Caudill not to work, and somebody else to do his job. That’s just great.

I believe that there may be some allegations under investigation that directly implicate Caudill. As to the others, for years under his “leadership” many police officers in this town treated people in PR with complete disrespect,including our kids. Sitting in their cars calling their girlfriends during work hours or pulling over people for minor or fictious violations instead of patrolling our streets for real problems (while crime goes up including armed robberies). If we can get a good police chief, the department can be finally be cleaned up.

Anonymous 03.01.08 1:47 pm:

If what you claim were true, then the buy-out/bribe being paid to Chief Caudill to “retire” truly is the travesty we suspect it to be – and our city officials are irresponsible for paying it.

We also have seen no evidence that real crime is going up in Park Ridge, much less that Chief Caudill’s management is responsible for it. Once again, if that were true, then Caudill’s bribed “retirement” becomes even more repugnant.

Finally, to the extent we understand that Mayor Frimark is heavily involved in engineering Caudill’s bribed “retirement” and will be heavily involved in the selection of the new chief, we have serious reservations about any result from that endeavor.

Isn’t the real question here, “How much has the early retirement/separation agreements cost the taxpayers?’ And why was it offered to every department head. In the private sector, these type of programs are targeted, so that experienced personnel do not leave in droves.
In Park Ridge, just about every experienced department head has left and the experienced police chief is forced out. This total regime change causes one to pause. What is going on?

anonymous on 03.06.08 9:56 pm:

What’s going on is (a) the previous Council, at the behest of then-Ald. Don Crampton, came up with a lamebrained early retirement incentive program; and (b) Mayor Frimark is using that as the carrot to get the senior management to get out.

That way, even if Frimark doesn’t get re-elected, he will still have City Hall packed with “his” people for years to come.



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