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


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.