The City of Virginia is without a chief of police and one alderman after a city council meeting last night.
Over 30 people packed inside the council chambers last night to voice their concerns about the city’s police department and the county dispatch system. Mayor Randy McClure informed the board prior to public comment that he had terminated new chief Daniel W. Smith from the city’s employment within the week.
McClure says he saw some growing unspecific issues: “Well, like I told people in the council chambers tonight, the reason I got rid of him was because I saw some future things that were coming up, and instead of dealing with them in the future, I wanted to deal with them now. Get it done and over with so we can move on.”
One concerned citizen brought two articles from late 2004 from the Chicago Tribune before the board that showed a Will County Sheriff’s Deputy also by the name of Daniel W. Smith who had been charged for forgery after the discovery of the forging of 3 state re-examination forms that police officers and doctors submit to the Illinois secretary of state’s office when a driver’s license should be suspended. According to a December 2004 Chicago Tribune article, that Smith pleaded guilty to 3 misdemeanor charges and resigned from his position and was placed on 2 years probation.
During the meeting, Smith neither confirmed nor denied it was he that was being referenced in the articles, but said the case has been sealed and shouldn’t be made public. He also threatened to sue the resident who handed out the articles to the council for libel.
WLDS News asked Cass County State’s Attorney Craig Miller in February whether his office had been requested to perform a criminal background check on Smith prior to his hire as police chief. Miller said his office was not requested to perform that function. McClure also confirmed that the city did not perform a criminal background check on Smith last night.
Smith also gave a final salvo during public comment saying that he wished to dispel rumors that had been circulating in the small town and on social media. Smith said he had proof that Cass County Sheriff Devron Ohrn was attempting to run him out of town, that 2 inmates had escaped custody of the sheriff’s offic, that local 9-1-1 was not sending out calls, and that the Cass County Sheriff’s Department wasn’t performing an essential function in a timely manner: “I have noticed that they have gotten orders of protection from the judge. It says right on the order of protection ‘must be served immediately’ and hasn’t been served for over two weeks before the person got served. That’s a safety issue. Another resident did not have an order of protection served [for] them, and their door was kicked in the following night by the offender and the victim was almost choked to death. If an order of protection is ordered by a judge, I think the judge has higher precedence over the police department or even the sheriff’s office. If they tell you to serve an order of protection, serve it. Plain and simple. That’s a safety issue.”
Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Smith came to Ohrn’s defense saying that his office had handled over 80 calls for the City of Virginia in the last month and refuted Dan Smith’s claims about the 2 escapees. Smith explained that one offender escaped a car and was caught 100 yards from the car and taken back into custody. The second alleged escapee was on medical furlough for treatment at a hospital, attempted to leave, but caught immediately, treated for their medical issue and returned to custody.
Jeff Smith also said a city police officer cannot lawfully serve an order of protection in the county because they do not have access to the county court system . Also in attendance and showing support for Sheriff Ohrn but not speaking was Morgan County Sheriff Mike Carmody.
Several other testy exchanges occurred over an hour’s period with the city council, Dan Smith, and between residents. One resident was even removed from the council chambers for being unruly.
McClure says he’s ready for the city to move on and he’s working on that right away: “I’ve got someone in mind right now [for Chief of Police]. I’m going to go through the proper channels and everything to see if we can get him appointed to the city if he takes it.”
McClure says he and some of the city council will also be approaching the county about some of the issues with the county dispatch and the way in which they ring out calls. He did not provide further details, but says he hopes to speak with the Sheriff’s Office about the issues and concerns that citizens brought forth in the next few weeks.
McClure will also have the job of finding a replacement for Ward 3 Alderman Jason French. French submitted his official letter of resignation last night to the council.