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Caseyville remix: Romanik terminated, Alvarez retained

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The third attempt to terminate Stephen Romanik from the Caseyville Police force was successful Tuesday evening. The third attempt to fire Jose Alvarez, Romanik’s former chief, the day after Romanik was fired, was unsuccessful.

CaseyvillePoliceRomanik, a probationary officer, was removed by a 3-0 vote of the Board of Police Commissioners Tuesday. A motion to fire Alvarez, at a special meeting Wednesday, called by Mayor Leonard Black Monday, failed by a 4-2 vote.

The third attempt to fire Romanik was successful after Alvarez produced documentation for the board members to back his request. Although no documentation is necessary, the Board requested it to “alleviate turmoil in town,” Commissioner John Buckley told the Metro Independent in March. Because the matter is a personnel issue, Buckley would not comment on the contents of the documentation provided.

The first attempt to terminate Romanik, on Feb. 11, was unsuccessful when the three Board of Police Commissioner members, all newly appointed by Black in 2013, did not feel comfortable voting on the termination without Village Attorney John Gilbert present. The motion was tabled for a special meeting to discuss the termination.

Black fired Alvarez, for the first time, the following day.

The special meeting never occurred. Interim Police Chief Frank Moore did not pursue Romanik’s termination during the week that Alvarez waited for the Caseyville Village Board reinstate him by a 6-0 vote. The second attempt to terminate Romanik was delayed when the Board of Police Commissioners delayed action at the March 4 meeting until documentation to back the request could be provided.

(See related story: Ready, set, fire: A timeline of hiring and firing the current Caseyville police chief)

Just as the first time Alvarez attempted to terminate Romanik, an attempt was made to fire Alvarez within 24 hours of Romanik being terminated Tuesday. Black called the special meeting for Wednesday because he has been receiving calls from citizens to fire Alvarez, Black said.

The calls Black received, he said, were coming from Caseyville residents who do not attend the Board of Trustees meetings, where public sentiment has been overwhelmingly in support of retaining Alvarez. He receives more calls to fire Alvarez than to keep him, Black said.

“I guess you call it the silent majority, or something like that,” Black said.

Although Black called the meeting, he said he did so to address personnel issues and did not believe the Board of Trustees would vote on firing the chief. Trustee Rick Casey Jr. said the special meeting was called, instead of waiting for the regularly scheduled Board meeting in two weeks, because “there was enough criteria to warrant termination.”

At the meeting, a list of questions for Alvarez to answer was distributed by Black, Alvarez said. Casey, who called the motion for the vote, and voted in favor of termination, said the primary complaints against Alvarez was being on time to work, wearing a proper uniform, completing a daily activity sheet mandated by Black and letters of complaint filed by three Caseyville police officers.

Black set a 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Friday schedule for Alvarez to be present in the office, in case someone wants to stop in to see the chief, Alvarez said. Meetings with other law enforcement agencies have at times required him to be absent during that timeframe, Alvarez said.

He was asked at the special meeting if he was wearing the proper uniform, Alvarez said. He explained his wardrobe choice while on duty to the trustees and acknowledged that he has been to the office out of uniform, such as the times he moves his boxes into and out of his office after various termination attempts, Alvarez said.

Ron Tamburello, former Caseyville police chief and current member of the Board of Trustees police committee, and Wally Abernathy went to Alvarez’s office Thursday to discuss the activity log Black required the chief of police to complete every day and fax to the mayor, Alvarez said. The three agreed that Alvarez would complete the forms, which logs what he does each day, and drop them off at Village Hall, where they will be stamped to acknowledge receipt. Since the meeting, Alvarez has completed one every day, including weekends, he said.

Caseyville police officers are not required to submit daily activity logs to Alvarez, he said.

Because it is a personnel matter, neither Casey nor Black would discuss the contents of the letters from the three police officers.

Tamburello, not Brenda Williams, the police committee chairperson for the Board of Trustees, read the letters. Tamburello joined Casey Wednesday in voting to terminate Alvarez.

Black did not know if the letters were addressed to him or Tamburello.

“They could have been addressed to me, that’s very possible, I can’t say without looking at them,” Black said.

He did not see the letters until the meeting, Black said. Neither Tamburello nor Williams responded to a request for comment.

Alvarez addressed the complaints in the letters for the board members at the meeting, he said.

The issue of Alvarez’s employment may be far from settled. “Now the board made that decision and we just have to move on,” Black said Thursday, echoing a comment he made following the decision made by the Board of Trustees on March 19 to retain Alvarez.

“One way or another, we have to get this out of the way,” Black said Thursday, “We’re going to do something, we can’t continue on like this.”

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