Tempers flare over trash fire at Chrisman city meeting

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 7/27/20

CHRISMAN — An effort to dismiss Chrisman’s part-time police chief Jordan Hale failed during the Wednesday, July 23, city council meeting.

The effort followed a suggestion by …

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Tempers flare over trash fire at Chrisman city meeting

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CHRISMAN — An effort to dismiss Chrisman’s part-time police chief Jordan Hale failed during the Wednesday, July 23, city council meeting.

The effort followed a suggestion by Commissioner Brian Haddix that a copy of the city’s ordinance book be given to city’s police department with a requirement the officers memorize it.

Haddix said he asked Hale to take action against a resident who had a trash fire burning around 10 p.m. and Hale claimed there was no violation of city ordinances occurring.

“I went home spent time going through the ordinance book and there was a violation,” said Haddix. “If I can find it, then the police should too.”

Hale told the council he went to the residence in question per Haddix’s request and found a recreational fire, which city ordinances permit. The police chief said wood was the only material he observed being burned and no trash was in the fire.

The two men also went back and forth over Hale’s refusal to sign a complaint related to the incident. Hale said Haddix, as health commissioner, also had the authority to sign the complaint.

Haddix demanded Hale resign immediately, which Hale refused to do. Hale said only Mayor Dan Owen, who has oversight responsibility for the police department, can ask for his resignation.

Haddix then made a motion the council dismiss Hale from his position as police chief. Commissioner Rodney Wolfe seconded the motion. The motion failed on a tie vote with Haddix and Wolfe voting to dismiss, and commissioners Thad Crispin and Tyler Alexander voting no. Mayor Owen was not present.

It must be noted the agenda for the meeting did not include any reference to the police chief’s position. According to the Illinois Attorney General’s website providing information about the Open Meetings Act, a public body may discuss issues not listed on the agenda, but no action may be taken regarding items not on the agenda. 

The only reference to the police department on the agenda was the hiring of a part-time officer. That action was tabled following a motion by Haddix and Wolfe. They said the city is currently searching for a full-time police chief, and it should be up to that person regarding who to hire.

Wolfe and Alexander also got into a verbal sparring match during the meeting. Wolfe reported receiving a complaint from a resident who found the city office closed over the noon hour. He said the clerical workers are supposed to stagger their lunch breaks so the office is continually open between the hours of 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Alexander agreed that is the policy, but he objected to Wolfe not passing the complaint to him for investigation and remediation as a first step. Alexander has oversight of the city’s clerical staff.

All commissioners, Alexander said, have a responsibility when they receive a complaint to share it with the commissioner responsible for that area rather than bring it up in a board meeting and catch everyone by surprise.

“It’s not fair to throw the employees under the bus until the supervisor has a chance to talk to them,” said Alexander.

The council did get some things done at the meeting.

Dumpster Days were set as Sept. 11, 12 and 13 during which the city pays to have a dumpster in town and residents can dispose of unwanted items.

Haddix reported multiple letters have gone out to property owners regarding unmowed lots and deteriorated buildings and nothing is happening. He said city workers have mowed the grass once a month around a derelict house on Jackson Street.

City clerk Dena Burns said the owner of the Jackson Street house lives in Chicago, but she does not know what is happening to the registered letters sent to that address informing the owner the property is in violation of city ordinances. Burns said the post office has not returned any signed slips showing receipt of the registered letters or the letters themselves as undeliverable.

“It’s time to get the attorney involved,” said Haddix, and Burns was instructed to turn the matter over to city attorney Robert Morris for enforcement.

The council approved a plan from Dan Moore as representative of the Woodland Cemetery Board. Moore said the cemetery board is willing to pay for decorative strips to weave into the chain link fence surrounding the city’s sewage treatment plant.

“We will pay for everything,” said Moore. “When there is a funeral service in the cemetery, the sewer plant is an eyesore.”

Crispin reported demolition of the pavilion in Centennial Park is complete.

“We are getting that cleaned up and waiting on the engineers for more designs,” said