St. Charles vs. The Sergeants;
By Rich Trzupek
Special Analysis and Commentary
In Part 2 of this series, we'll continue to examine the City of St. Charles' expensive dispute with the sergeants it employs in the Police Department. As the City pursues further litigation in an attempt to reverse the Illinois Labor Relations Board's order that certified the sergeants' union, our continued review of the hearing transcript yields more and more gems.
One issue stands out in reviewing testimony on day two of the hearing, on Oct. 29, 2007: the strange case of Marshall's Towing.
Like many municipalities, the City of St. Charles subcontracts its towing work to different towing companies, including Marshall's Towing. Subcontractors are used to remove cars from no-parking zones, or to impound cars, etc. and, not surprisingly, terribly popular. Unpleasant clientele tends to make for unpleasant business owners, as anyone who dealt with the Lincoln Park Pirates back in the 1980s can attest.
Whatever Lonnie Marshall's personality is like, his ethics seem to be a bit on the slippery side, at least according to a couple of Police Department internal memos that were introduced into evidence.
In a Sept. 5, 2006 memo addressed to Chief James Lamkin, Sergeant Brad Griffin reports that Marshall appears to engage in business practices that would have been expected to raise a few eyebrows.
In the memo, Griffin reports that he received a complaint from a resident, saying that Marshall overcharged him. It does not seem to be an isolated incident. Among other things, the memo says:
"Over the past several years there have been several incidents involving Marshall's Towing that clearly indicate a lack of good business practice and criminal activity.
"In approximately Nov. of 2003, Lonnie Marshall met with us and demanded that you allow him to tow snow relocates to his shop so he could charge for a full tow and also obtain storage charges. He also demanded larger dollar amounts for towing in general as well as complaining that officers are not towing cars frequently enough. He was subsequently denied his demands."
That's disturbing enough, but that's nothing compared to the rest of the memo. Here we find more gems, like:
The police investigated Marshall in 2005 for selling an abandoned vehicle prior to the expiration of the legal time limit and without notifying the owner. During the course of the investigation "it became apparent that there were numerous improper vehicle sales."
Griffin writes the Marshall stated that "he adds an administrative charge when someone "pisses him off"."
Griffin says that he frequently finds overcharges on tow bills from Marshalls. "When confronted about the tow bill, he (Marshall) complains that it costs him money to abide by the ordinance."
At the time the memo was written, Marshall was refusing to accept credit cards--though the law clearly required him to. By accepting only cash, chances for fraud were enhanced.
Now, being the all-powerful supervisors that the City of St. Charles claims its sergeants to be, one would think a report this damning would result in Marshall's Towing never getting another call from the police department. One would think that, at the very least, somebody up the food chain would be a little indignant.
When showed this memo, and a follow up memo from a few days later, Commander David Kintz didn't seem especially concerned. Here's the exchange between Kintz and the union's attorney, Joseph Mazzone:
Mazzone: Now, sir, it appears in these memos issued by Sergeant Griffin that there were some significant problems raised concerning Marshall's Towing and their relationship with the City of St. Charles. Would you agree?
Kintz: There were some problems. It's your characterization they were significant.
Mazzone: Okay. So you don't think overcharging and stealing--and saying that he's got a hook with the City, that he's going to get in there and that --that he--that he charges an administrative bill to whoever pisses him off, according to Sergeant Griffin--those aren't significant?
Kintz: Those are problems.
Mazzone: Okay. Now sir, is Marshall still towing with the City?
Kintz: Yes, he is.
Perhaps Kintz's nonchalance is related to another part of Sergeant Griffin's memo, which says:
"A short time after Brandenburg retired, Lonnie Marshall commented to Olson that now that Brandenburg is gone and Kintz is commander, he will be able to get whatever he wants from the PD."
It's clear that--in this and many other cases--far from being the independent operators who effectively run the Police Department, the real bosses pay lip service to the sarges. This shouldn't be a surprise, and it sure makes one wonder why a guy who appears to be as shady an operator as Lonnie Marshall hasn't had his contract terminated.
But then, the principle of "it's not what you know, it's who you know" has always been important in the City of St. Charles.