South Jacksonville village trustees could be taking new action on the retirement-severance package for former South Jacksonville Police Chief Richard Evans that was approved earlier this month.
A special meeting has been called for Thursday, less than a week after WLDS-WEAI News released a separation agreement signed by Evans and Village President Gordon Jumper on May 7th, obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.
The retirement of Evans was announced last month following the publishing of findings from a 2014 Illinois State Police report into alleged wrongdoings at Village Hall. He was one of three village officials named in an ethics complaint.
Trustees approved the agreement that pays Evans nearly $22,000 during a special meeting on May 7th by a 4-2 vote, with Kem Wilson and Stacy Pinkerton voting “no”.
Mike Woodyard of the Morgan County Watchdogs organization says his group plans on challenging the agreement at this week’s meeting.
“When someone retires, you already have a retirement package which the village has been paying into for years, and it’s called a pension. A separation agreement would be separating and terminating a contract early, which was not the case. Therefore, there’s no legal standing for Mr. Evans to walk away with $22,000 of village taxpayers’ money because he retired,” claims Woodyard.
Tyson Manker, the village resident who filed the original ethics complaint against Jumper, Evans and former village clerk Linda Douglass in April, also released a statement on Friday claiming the separation agreement is legally invalid.
Trusted sources tell WLDS-WEAI News that no legal counsel was present during the closed session portion of the May 7th meeting, and that at no point did an attorney from Rammelkamp-Bradney, which represents the village, review the agreement, nor did the additional counsel hired during the formation of an ethics commission.
The first page of the separation agreement indicates “both parties have had an opportunity to consult independent legal counsel prior to executing the agreement”.
Woodyard doesn’t believe an attorney would have advised trustees to pass the separation agreement.
“What we really need to know is who was the village attorney that reviewed this agreement and advised the board that this was the thing to do. I can’t believe there would be one,” he says. “And that’s a question that can only be answered probably by Mr. Jumper as he presented it at the meeting.”
It should be noted that the original agenda for the May 7th meeting listed “Police Chief Retirement” as an action item. The agenda posted on the South Jacksonville website for that date, accessed this morning, said “Richard Evans Retirement [Package].”
Woodyard believes there was a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
“Nowhere is there anything said about a separation until after the agreement is passed, and that shows up in the minutes of the agenda that were posted after the fact, and the wording was changed from the original,” states Woodyard. “I really feel like the board was misled on this.”
Phone calls to Gordon Jumper and Allen Yow went unreturned this morning.
Thursday’s meeting will take place at 7 p.m. There is a closed session prior to the retirement package action item.