Columns

Hosey: Learn the rules before you play the game

If the mayor’s going to keep angling to put his cronies in powerful city jobs despite their complete lack of municipal experience, he might want to let them know there are a few rules on how they can do things, and that sometimes those rules are even written down somewhere.

At least a few of these rules can be found in Joliet’s code of ordinances, a copy of which must be somewhere around here, maybe even right on the city’s website, and would be worth taking a look at, especially for a guy like City Manager Jim Capparelli.

When O’Dekirk sold the city council on his pick for manager back in January, he made note of Capparelli’s military career, including the part he played in the invasion of Panama. But just because you can capture Manuel Noriega doesn’t mean you know the ins and outs of firing a police chief, which Capparelli proved last week when he tried to terminate the employment of Dawn Malec.

Capparelli thought he had succeeded in firing Malec, who was the first female police chief in the history of Joliet. But a few hours later realized he was wrong, that the worst he could do to her was return her to her previous rank of lieutenant. It was almost like that time he announced he was pulling the police department out of the Tri-County Auto Theft Task Force before realizing that, no, he couldn’t do that either.

So Malec ended up staying with the department, albeit on administrative duty over at City Hall when she returns to work. But does that mean she’s safe? Now that she’s a lieutenant, what’s to stop Capparelli from firing her for good?

First, he might have to convince Malec’s replacement, interim Police Chief Robert Brown, to recommend her for termination. If Brown, who is the first Black police chief in the history of Joliet, doesn’t go along with it, Capparelli might as well demote him back to lieutenant too. Then he and Malec can both be on desk duty at City Hall, along with Sgt. Javier Esqueda. Esqueda was put on desk duty and charged with felonies for leaking a video of Eric Lurry, who overdosed in the back of a squad car after he was arrested at what police said was the scene of a drug deal.

Malec said she was terminated after scheduling a disciplinary hearing for Esqueda at which he could have been fired, which went against Capparelli’s wishes. Capparelli wouldn’t confirm or deny this.

Whatever the reason, it looks like Malec’s headed over to City Hall to join Esqueda. And if Brown doesn’t do as Capparelli says, maybe he’ll end up there too. Then all they’ll need is another former chief on administrative duty and a deck of cards, and they can play Euchre or Hearts.

Will that happen? Who can say what the future holds? But right here in the present, things don’t look great when you have a city manager trying to fire a police chief just nine months after the chief before her was squeezed out for getting sideways with the mayor. And all this with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s people supposedly probing how things are run at the police department.

Raoul might want to tell his attorneys to take a walk across the street and check out City Hall instead. Maybe then they’ll find the real problem.

• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at jhosey@shawmedia.com or on Twitter @JoeHosey.

Joseph Hosey

Joseph Hosey

Joe Hosey became editor of The Herald-News in 2018. As a reporter, he covered the disappearance of Stacy Peterson and criminal investigation of her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson. He was the 2015 Illinois Journalist of the Year and 2014 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award winner.