September 16, 2014

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Candidate reports dispatcher misconduct


Incumbent: ’06 incidents in Wellington are old news

WELLINGTON — A sleeping police dispatcher. Another who co-workers believed was intoxicated.

And a police chief who wanted to discipline the person responsible for sending a letter about the dispatchers to a member of the Village Council — saying the issue “is not a matter of general public concern.”

Those are some of the problems that Wellington mayoral candidate and part-time police officer Mike Kobasher brought to light this week during an endorsement interview with The Chronicle-Telegram.

The events described by Kobasher, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Barbara O’Keefe, took place within days of one another in mid-2006, according to police records.

Dispatchers Glenda Weidrick and Kathy Stephens each were suspended for three days without pay for their infractions, according to city records.

Weidrick, who began working for the village in 2004 before resigning in the spring 2007, was observed by at least three officers on May 29, 2006, with red glassy eyes, using profane language, being dressed in a disheveled manner and smelling of alcohol, according to a letter in her personnel file.

The day before, Stephens had to be physically shaken by an officer in order to wake her. Other witnesses, including a cleaning lady, came forward to say they had noticed her asleep as well on another occasion.

Police Chief Steve Rollins said he investigated both incidents.

“I took statements from several people, and both matters were dealt with,” Rollins said.

Rollins said he saw Weidrick without shoes on the day she allegedly came to work smelling of alcohol, but he said he did not get close enough to notice any odor.

Stephens, who has worked as a dispatcher since February 2006, did not have any other infractions in her personnel file before or since the sleeping complaints.

Weidrick, meanwhile, received a written reprimand in April 2005 for waiting to inform police of a suicidal man until police were through with a prior call, according to her personnel file.

Within days of the incidents, at least one Council member received an anonymous letter describing the infractions plus another one about a traffic accident involving a police officer.

Rollins, who provided a copy of the letter to The Chronicle, took issue with the letter — issuing a June 6, 2006, memo stating he would recommend a three-day suspension without pay for its author because that person failed to follow the department’s complaint procedure.

Kobasher, who denied sending the letter but did admit talking to a Council member about another problem, said the chief called him for a disciplinary hearing, but it was canceled after Kobasher retained an attorney, Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Rollins said he dropped the matter on the advice of Stephen Bond, the village’s law director.

O’Keefe, contacted after Kobasher’s visit to The Chronicle, called his statements “very political — he’d like to be in charge of the police department,” she said.

“We’ve had some problems we’ve worked through,” O’Keefe said. “He’s trying to run his campaign through the newspaper.”

Kobasher, in an interview Thursday, declined to elaborate on his earlier comments, saying: “All department heads would be under review” if he wins.

“We’ve got good people in there, but in my opinion, we need some improvements,” said Kobasher, who has been a part-time officer in Wellington since 1997.

O’Keefe said doling out discipline for the letter at this point would be “like your Mom spanking you for something you did three years ago.”

According to Kobasher’s personnel file, he was investigated in 2000 after two women alleged that he threatened to have LaGrange police officers “take care of them,” according to written complaints in the file.

The residents wrote that they were watching a basketball game at Wellington High School when Kobasher, who was off duty, was being obnoxious in the stands by shouting at the referees and coaches. When the residents turned around to quiet him, he made the threat, according to the complaints.

Three other people came forward and said they were sitting right next to Kobasher and his daughter, who was 12 at the time, and did not hear any such threats.

Rollins said the investigation was dropped as a result of the conflicting accounts.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com or Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.