South Jacksonville hires Brown, Hay & Stephens as legal counsel

By Ryne Turke on May 1, 2015 at 8:43am

Busy Village Hall for South Jacksonville meeting

Action has been taken by South Jacksonville trustees in response to an ethical complaint filed against the village nearly a month ago.

Village Hall was filled once again last night for a South Jacksonville meeting to take action on a petition signed by hundreds of South Jacksonville residents.

The complaint called for Village President Gordon Jumper, office manager and Treasurer Linda Douglass and Police Chief Richard Evans to step down from their positions in the wake of findings from a 2014 Illinois State Police Report. All three have announced their retirement or resignation.

While the past few weeks of meetings have consisted of outbursts from the crowd and occasional shouting matches with village trustees, yesterday’s meeting generated mostly positive discussion and answers from the board.

After holding a brief closed session, trustee members wasted no time announcing Brown, Hay & Stephens of Springfield as the special counsel hired to advise the board and future ethics commission.

Trustee member Kem Wilson says she has spoken with the law firm “multiple times” over the past week.

“They have no conflicts of interest and have done their homework on checking that. They are more than excited to get started,” says Wilson.

“They will be helping us decide who should be on the ethics commission, who shouldn’t be and the type of qualifications needed. Once we get the ethics commission established, they will guide the people on the ethics commission on how to proceed with their investigation.”

The majority of trustee members were in favor of holding off on establishing an ethics commission until legal counsel was consulted.

Wilson was one of the trustees who was against this action.

“I’m very disappointed in that. This should have been dealt with at least two weeks ago. We have had more than enough time to deal with this. Everyone has had the same information that I have and I have been ready all this time. There is no reason for them not to be ready,” says Wilson.

“Hopefully I am going to be able to talk the attorney tomorrow and hopefully they will be able to meet with us before Thursday. If he can, I am going to set that up.”

Trustees approved the recommendation of Jennifer Wilson, the administrative assistant at the South Jacksonville Police Department, as the Freedom of Information Officer who will take over for Police Chief Richard Evans.

Village President Gordon Jumper says Wilson is already a certified FOIA officer and deals with activities specific to the police department.

Before the meeting was adjourned, trustee Steven Waltrip recommended that Village Clerk Dani Glascock be considered for the second FOIA officer position.

“Well I think we need to have two FOIA officers. I know there is a requirement for the law enforcement, but I think we also need to have one for the village,” says Waltrip.

“I think it is good to have somebody in the office to give the public the information that they want.”

Linda Douglass is the other South Jacksonville FOIA officer.

The current plan is for board members to revisit the establishment of an ethics commission during the regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday.