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BREAKING NEWS-Mayor's dismissal of police chief stands

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Council votes 3-3, with one alderman abstaining

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A 3-3 vote by the St. Elmo City Council at a special meeting on Thursday night means that Mayor Larry Tish’s dismissal of Ken Thomason from the chief of police position stands.

About 240 city residents were on hand for the meeting, which was moved from the Phillips Building to the St. Elmo Elementary School because of the size of the crowd.

At the close of the meeting, which lasted about an hour, aldermen Chris Worman and Mike McCall, and Tish, voted to uphold Thomason’s dismissal.

Voting to reverse the action were aldermen Theresa Riley, Lloyd Carson and Jayson Porter. Alderman Jaimee Blankenship abstained from voting, “because of a personal interest.”

Tish confirmed after the meeting that Blankenship is his sister-in-law.

City Attorney Rick Day explained at the beginning of the meeting that after researching state statutes and speaking with Illinois Municipal League officials, he learned that Tish had the right to vote on this type of personnel matter, whether or not there was a tie.

Because of that, the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the mayor’s dismissal of Thomason rose from four to five.

After that vote, Tish asked for the council to approve his appointment of Rob Schukar as the interim police chief, but none of the alderman made such a motion.

Tish said after the meeting that in speaking with Day, it is his understanding that he can appoint someone to the post on a temporary basis, “until we can come to an agreement on someone.”

After the meeting, Thomason said he would not make any decisions on continuing to fight the mayor’s decision until he spoke with his attorney, Lee Barron of Alton.

“I’ve tried to prepare myself for this happening,” Thomason said, adding that it still is difficult to grasp.

“I still don’t know what the charges are,” he said. “I’ve never received a copy of that; I guess that I did have them read to me tonight.

“I’m very disappointed that the city council didn’t listen to the people,” Thomason said, referring to the fact that the majority of people at the meeting were there to support him.

Residents were given the opportunity to speak up to one minute on the issue. Nine residents spoke, and eight of them voiced their support for Thomason.

See next week’s issue of The Leader-Union for a full report on the meeting, and check back at www.leaderunion.com for photos and videos for the meeting.