Illinois Public Media News
City officials in Champaign have completed a review looking at alleged favoritism in the police department.
The review was prompted by an anonymous e-mail sent to city officials on Aug. 18, 2011, which raised internal issues at the police department.
City Manager Steve Carter said during the review, some police employees felt they hadn't been treated with respect on the job. While he said that has impacted working relationships among police officers, he maintained that it has not dampened police service.
"These have been very stressful times really for everybody for budgetary reasons, and obviously police community relations," Carter said. "You're going to have disagreements that occur inside a large organization, and it's just important to try to address those concerns as well as you can, so that you can get back and focus on your work."
According to the review of the police department, Carter said there was no indication of wrongdoing with the process for the lieutenant's promotion exam. However, he did offer up some recommended changes to the test, including eliminating the oral interview and departmental rating sections.
"(The departmental ratings portion) is admittedly a very subjective part of the process," Carter explained. "People's prediction or how they feel this particular employee will do in the new position is not really a performance evaluation."
To make the process more fair, Carter is pushing to add an employee's past performance appraisal ratings to the exam. He also said employees should be allowed to participate in the assessment process.
The Board of Fire and Police Commission would have to approve the suggested changes.
While Carter noted that there is room for improvement within the police department, he said he is confident about its future.
Meanwhile, while the search continues for retiring Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney's replacement, Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will serve in that role on an interim basis.
Nearing, a 29-year Champaign Police veteran, will become the city's first female police chief. She will be responsible for building up trust within the police department.
"I'll have the job of being the police chief and responding to community issues, issues that officers might be having, but also this mending fences role to set the table for the next police chief so he or she has maybe a smoother path," Nearing said.
Nearing will take over for Chief Finney on Dec. 5.
Carter said there are four finalists in the running for the police department's top job, all of whom are connected to the Midwest. They will be interviewed in December, and will then each address the city council during a televised meeting. Carter noted that one of those people will likely be chosen for the job by the beginning of January, and could then start within a couple of months.
Federal Grant to Help CUMTD Purchase Hybrid Buses
Several Illinois communities are getting a portion of a $5 million federal transportation grant to purchase hybrid buses. The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will use some of that money to replace its older buses powered by gasoline and diesel.
Illinois coach Ron Zook isn't interested in talking about job security.
Zook told reporters Tuesday that he would end his weekly news conference if anyone asked about his job following four straight losses and a weekend of off-field trouble for his players.
He kept his promise, walking out after he was asked if had talked to his players about handling questions about his future.
The seventh-year Illini coach started the season with six wins, but has now watched his team lose four in a row.
Over the weekend, starting linebacker Trulon Henry was shot in the hand at a party where two other people were shot. In another incident, two other reserve players were arrested following a fight on campus. Zook suspended them.
The death of a 10-year old student has prompted the Georgetown-Ridge Farm School District to bring back some programs in addition to traditional counseling methods.
Authorities are calling Ridge Farm 5th grader Ashylnn Conner's death an apparent suicide. She died Friday, and family members believe bullying played a role. Georgetown-Ridge Farm interim superintendent Kevin Tate said grief counselors have recommended the district bring back a peer mediation program, and implement PBIS, or positive behavior intervention systems.
Tate said the district discontinued some of these programs due to staff changes or finances. But he said they will be reinstated, along with anti-bullying policies that staff is training in year round.
"The workshops and the practices that they do throughout the year - a lot of them are about bullying," Tate said. "There are different levels, different age groups, and different training, so I think the district has continued to work on that, regardless. And when something like this happens, they'll take a look again, and work even harder."
Tate said the hired counselors that are helping the district, specifically those at Ridge Farm Elementary, will write a report and administrators will make suggestions based on those recommendations.
Funeral services for Ashlynn Conner will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Bethel Baptist Church in Georgetown. Ridge Farm Elementary will be closed to allow students and staff to attend.
The U.S. Supreme Court may soon decide if it's constitutional to make Americans buy health insurance. Illinois' two U.S. Senators are both in favor of the Court taking up the issue, but for different reasons.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk thinks President Obama's controversial health care bill should be overturned.
"In a limited government which defends our rights, I do not believe the federal government has the power to force you to buy anything, especially from a government-controlled entity," Kirk said in a press conference on Monday.
Kirk said he expects the decision to be five judges on one side, four on the other, but he isn't sure which way it'll go.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said he's glad the high court will rule, because messy state court battles can hopefully be avoided.
"I think it is part of individual responsibility in this country that you have health insurance so there is protection for you, your family and for the rest of us," Durbin said.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in March and a ruling is expected by late June.
A Congressional House Committee rejected an amendment on Monday night to give gun owners more rights in Illinois.
The proposal, pushed by five Republican congressmen in the state, would have updated legislation to allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their handguns across state lines.
As it stands now, the bill wouldn't apply to areas that bar concealed carry, like Illinois. Urbana Republican Tim Johnson, who is one of the backers of the amendment, addressed the House Rules Committee on Monday.
"This just puts us in the situation the same as any other state, and saves a lot of confusion and provides for uniform laws," Johnson said during a House Rules committee hearing. "I think it's extraordinarily important."
Cosponsors of the amendment included Illinois Republican Congressmen Bobby Schilling, Aaron Schock, Randy Hultgren and Adam Kinzinger. Even though the amendment didn't make it as part of the larger concealed carry legislation, Johnson said he plans to introduce the measure again.
Meanwhile, opponents of the bill say the concealed carry legislation would interfere with more stringent gun regulations that exist in other states. If the Republican-controlled House passes the legislation, it will likely face an uphill battle in the Senate where Democrats hold the majority.
Friends of those affected by the weekend shootings near the University of Illinois campus are sending their thoughts and prayers to the victims.
Members of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity were among the nearly 300 people attending a candlelight vigil on the Urbana Quad Monday night. Many spoke about U of I graduate Brian Reed, who friends say was critically injured early Sunday. Two others were hurt, including U of I football player Trulon Henry - but no arrests have been made. Henry is recovering after being shot in the hand.
U of I graduate Steven Martin identified himself as the third victim in Sunday's incident. Martin was treated and released Sunday after being shot in the leg. He told the crowd at the Quad that the events of early Sunday are surreal to him.
"Just keep in mind - ain't nothing worth that level of violence," he said. "You keep your head up, we're going to keep our head up, and keep moving. Just realize, we're here for one thing - that's for a better tomorrow."
2009 U of I alumnus Robbie Moore says word spread quickly of Sunday's incident, and many came from out of town to offer support.
"Twenty-five to 30 (fraternity) brothers are here - not even just from this chapter," he said. "Word spread around. We put it on Twitter. We let everybody know where to come, and we all came. And these people are coming from Illinois State (University), Chicago State, Southern (SIU), Northern (NIU), everywhere."
Moore says Reed is from the Chicago area, but was back in Champaign with hopes of attending law school. He told the crowd the events of early Sunday morning should prompt anyone to have a new perspective on life. Martin says the vigil said a lot about the quality of people on campus.
Prior to the vigil, the U of I's African-American Cultural Center hosted a support forum. Urbana Police are still seeking the man who fired into a crowd of about 100 people at a house on South Lincoln Avenue around 3:30 Sunday morning.
Anyone with information should call the Urbana Police Department at 217-384-2320. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Champaign County Crime Stoppers at 373-8477 (TIPS). President Hogan says counselors are on hand to assist students, faculty, and staff. Anyone needing immediate assistance can call the Emergency Dean at 217-333-0050.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
The St. Louis Cardinals have hired Mike Matheny to a two-year contract as their new manager, with a club option for a third season.
The World Series champs say they are not worried that Matheny has never filled out a lineup card for a major league game.
"Many people may question this hire for his lack of experience," general manager John Mozeliak said at a news conference Monday to introduce Matheny. "All arrows pointed to Mike. In the end, the decision became very clear."
Matheny replaces Tony La Russa, who abruptly retired after the Cardinals won the World Series last month. Mozeliak said the four-time Gold Glove catcher stood out from a group of candidates that began with about 35 names and a final list of six that included Terry Francona, Ryan Sandberg and longtime Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo.
The 41-year-old Matheny donned a No. 22 Cardinals jersey at his inaugural news conference in the same room where La Russa stepped down two weeks earlier. He called it "the greatest honor of my life."
"I would say to the Cardinal fans, I can't tell you how excited I am about this opportunity," Matheny said. "I know there's a high level of expectation. If I didn't think I could do it, I certainly wouldn't have walked into the interview process."
The Cardinals expect to finalize the coaching staff by the end of the week. Mozeliak said pitching coach Dave Duncan, who is signed for next season, should be back, and Oquendo also could return.
Mozeliak said the team envisioned Matheny as managerial material when they added him to the organization two years ago. Matheny was a special assistant in player development last year and prior to that had been a minor league instructor.
Mozeliak said he was in contact with La Russa during the interview process.
"I don't know if the word consulting is right," Mozeliak said. "He was someone I kept abreast of the process. I always welcome his opinion."
Matheny is the Cardinals' youngest manager since Jack Krol, also 41, in 1978.
Matheny's playing career blossomed after he signed a one-year free-agent deal to be the backup catcher in St. Louis. Though a career .239 hitter, Matheny did enough defensively to earn a starting job. Matheny was with the Giants when his career was ended by concussions in 2006. He said he's been symptom free for about 1 1/2 years.
Francona was the only candidate who had major league managing experience. He left the Red Sox after the team collapsed in September. Oquendo coached for La Russa the last dozen years after playing the final decade of his career with the Cardinals and has had a handful of interviews for managing openings.
The Cardinals also interviewed Triple-A manager Chris Maloney and Chicago White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Regional education superintendents across Illinois are going to get paychecks again after more than four months.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Monday restoring the superintendents' pay.
Quinn eliminated their salaries from the state budget over the summer. He said the state needed the roughly $13 million for other services.
The superintendents and their assistants have not been paid since June.
Lawmakers voted last week to pay the superintendents out of money that usually goes to local governments, which means a tiny reduction in funds to cities and counties. The arrangement only lasts one year.
Illinois' two U.S. senators are proposing federal legislation to protect students with severe allergies.
Earlier this year, the state of Illinois passed a law allowing school nurses to give epinephrine, or an epi-pen, to any student having an allergic attack. The drug quickly reduces symptoms in severe allergic reactions.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said the proposed law would apply nation-wide, and give any authorized adult the right to give medication.
"If we have a good samaritan law, no one will hesitate because of liability concerns to deliver the epi-pen," Kirk said.
Chicago doctors at Children's Memorial Hospital said at Monday's press conference that mistakenly giving an epi-pen to a child without allergies isn't dangerous, and for the one in 25 kids with severe food allergies, it can save their life.
As for who will pay for the medication, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "My guess is PTA's will have no problem with a little bake sale to pay for them if necessary."
Kirk and Durbin said they'll introduce the legislation in the Senate this week and they expect it to have wide bi-partisan support.
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