New Joliet police chief clears some air

Clarifying the relationship between the incoming chief and the union attorney was appropriate

Give the new Joliet police chief some credit for confirming that he has a personal relationship with the lead attorney for the union that represents the officers he will supervise and likely will need to discipline at times.

Incoming Chief William Evans will be sworn in Tuesday.

Tamara Cummings is the general counsel for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council. She and Evans have a personal relationship, which means they are close, and which in itself is fine.

But given their jobs, one can’t help but wonder how that’s going to work out.

City Manager James Capparelli said the new chief’s personal relationships were none of his business.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said it was an “inappropriate” topic to discuss.

But there’s nothing wrong with the relationship. It’s a question of whether the chief and the lawyer can be that close without the relationship having an impact on their duties.

As The Herald-News reported this week, this is the statement Evans put out through a spokesman: “Because incoming Chief Evans and Ms. Cummings have a preexisting personal relationship, Cummings recused herself last week from future Joliet FOP assignments. Both believe it is important to avoid even the appearance for any future conflicts of interest.”

Whether or not that satisfies you, at least it addressed the matter.

Cummings and an official with the FOP did not return phone calls to confirm that she has removed herself from any matters involving the two Joliet police unions that represent patrol officers and supervisors.

Assuming Evans is correct, however, Cummings and the FOP apparently viewed the personal relationship as relevant to the duties of the lawyer and the chief.

This is not the first time that our attention has been drawn to the personal lives of public officials. Indeed, it is inappropriate to nose around just for the sake of embarrassing someone in the public eye.

But in this case, there is nothing embarrassing about the private lives of Evans and Cummings. From what I’m told, there is nothing secretive about their relationship. Indeed, it is evident on Cummings’ Facebook page from several very respectable photos that show them as a couple.

It’s the question of how it could affect the public duties of the new police chief that makes it appropriate to inquire.

Recent police chiefs have been at odds with

City Hall over disciplinary issues. The union typically gets involved. Cummings often has, as well.

As I said, give the new chief credit for at least addressing the matter.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News