Joliet police chief not out yet

Malec returning under rank of lieutenant, will seek reinstatement as chief

Former Joliet Police Chief Dawn Malec will return to her former rank of lieutenant on Tuesday after being fired on Wednesday.

And, Malec said Friday, she will make an appeal to the City Council in an effort to return as police chief.

“I’m hoping,” she said. “I know that I do have the opportunity to speak to the council. I’m not sure when that might happen.”

State statutes provide procedures for removal of police chiefs that require approval of corporate authorities, which would typically be the City Council. City Manager James Capparelli and City Attorney Sabrina Spano could not be reached for comment on what procedures will apply in Malec’s case.

Capparelli early Wednesday morning announced Malec’s termination as final.

Joliet operates under a city manager form of government that has been presumed to give the city manager sole authority to fire the police chief. However, Malec’s termination, which appeared to be final on Wednesday morning, began to become less so in a matter of hours.

“It was effective immediately that I was terminated,” Malec said. “I was told later I will be offered the rank of lieutenant while proceedings progressed.”

She received a hand-delivered letter from Capparelli describing the changed circumstances some time Wednesday afternoon, Malec said.

Malec said she was not sure what proceedings will take place. But she has consulted a lawyer and is arranging a meeting with the City Council that likely would occur in a closed session.

Her return to the police department will be on limited terms. Malec is not returning to police duties. She said she will be assigned to the City Clerk’s Office and is being placed on administrative duties. Malec said she will taking time off and will not be at the clerk’s office next week, although she will be employed again by the city.

Capparelli did not return calls seeking comment but did confirm in a text that Malec will return to the rank of lieutenant on Tuesday.

His office issued a news release at 8:17 a.m. Wednesday saying Malec was no longer employed.

“Joliet City Manager Jim Capparelli announces Police Chief Dawn Malec’s employment with the Joliet Police Department has ended effective immediately,” the release said. “The city of Joliet thanks former Chief Malec for her years of dedicated service to the Joliet community and wishes her will well in her future endeavors.”

Under Joliet’s city manager form of government, the city manager controls hiring and firing of all positions except his own. The City Council hires and fires the city manager.

However, state statutes that govern hiring and firing of police officers and firefighters also provide a procedure for firing police and fire chiefs.

Several council members this week expressed concern about Malec’s termination.

“This isn’t over yet,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said Thursday, although she was not specific about what might happen.

Capparelli was hired in January on a one-year contract. On his first day on the job, he appointed Malec as police chief. The position was vacant after former Chief Al Roechner retired days earlier with his future uncertain under the new city manager.

Malec has said she believes her termination is due to her insistence on an administrative hearing for disciplinary charges against Sgt. Javier Esqueda, who leaked a police video of the controversial arrest of Eric Lurry. Lurry died from what authorities determined to be an overdose of drugs he ingested while being arrested.