Former Carbondale Police Chief Issues Statement

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By Matthew Searcy
By Jared Roberts

CARBONDALE -- Two days after he was let go, former Carbondale police chief Jody O'Guinn is telling his side of the story.

He says he was blindsided by city manager Kevin Baity's "confidential" decision to fire him.

"He felt the city needed to go into a different direction and he was going to have to let me go," explained O'Guinn.  

He says the only complaint was that his patrol car wasn't seen at headquarters enough in the last thirty days.       

"For me that excuse was very weak," said O'Guinn. "If that was a condition of my employment someone failed to tell me that." 

City leaders say the decision has nothing to do with recent controversial cases in Carbondale, including the deaths of Molly Young and Pravin Varughese. O'Guinn disagrees.  

"It leads me to believe that part of the reason is because of the high profile incidents that have occurred in the past," said O'Guinn.  

The former chief says some of the negative attention was the result of his inability to address the media. He claims the city manager instructed him not to publicly discuss ongoing investigations. 

"I've gone for five years without being able to fully defend myself or the department on issues that have arisen," explained O'Guinn. "None by my own choosing." 

Interim Carbondale mayor Don Monty supports Baity's decision, but says the reasons must remain confidential.  

"It was just your regular personnel matter," said Monty. "I just don't see where it is appropriate to have that bandied about." 

O'Guinn maintains, despite suggestions from city leaders, he never engaged in any unethical or immoral behavior.

"To say that we didn't do what we were suppose to do is inadequate it's inaccurate," said O'Guinn.  

 

Statement of Jody O'Guinn:

On Monday, August 18, 2014, I was called into the office of the Carbondale City Manager, Kevin Baity. Mr. Baity presented me with a letter of resignation and requested that I sign it. I declined to sign the letter, and Mr. Baity informed me that he was terminating me immediately. I was given no statement of reasons for this decision, other than my "car wasn't seen at headquarters enough in the last thirty days" and that the "City needs to move in a different direction." Obviously, off-site meetings, vacation time, flex time, community meetings and appointments, as well as performing traffic stops and other police related activity, can frequently cause one's vehicle to not be at headquarters. I have, of course, read the press release issued by the City of Carbondale that refers to issues that are "confidential" in nature as to the reasons for my dismissal, without further explanation.

I have absolutely no idea what matters Mr. Baity is referring to. To the extent that Mr. Baity's press release suggests otherwise, I totally and categorically deny that I engaged in any acts that did anything other than reflect my total loyalty to the City of Carbondale while I was serving as its Chief of Police. I further state that I engaged in no acts of unethical, unprofessional, or immoral behavior, and to the extent that Mr. Baity's press release suggests otherwise, I deny the accusation.

I began service as the Carbondale Chief of Police in 2009. At the time I began service for the City of Carbondale, Brad Cole was the Mayor and Allen Gill was the City Manager. I was reviewed every year by City Manager Gill and received glowing reviews. Since Mr. Baity took over as City Manager I have never received a performance review from him. Communication from his office has been sporadic, at best. To this date, the only feedback that I received from Mr. Baity about my performance was his terse and confusing statements to me on August 18th and in his subsequent press release.

I am aware, of course, that there have been several high profile cases that have occurred during my tenure. The media has constantly sought information from my office, and there was some, limited, information that could be supplied to the media and the family members of the victims and to the public at large. I was given a verbal directive by Mr. Baity and the Jackson County States Attorney that I was to not to talk to the media about these cases. Mr. Baity informed me that he would take responsibility for all media activity as to those cases. Mr. Baity's regular practice, however, was to offer a "no comment." In many instances this left the victim's family and friends as well as many Carbondale citizens frustrated. It appears that a disproportionate amount of this frustration was directed at my office.

I would like to speak directly to the Young and Varughese families. The details in your cases were never obfuscated in an attempt to cover up negligence or malfeasance. In fact, the Carbondale Police Department, under my direction, was one of the most transparent agencies in the state. Unfortunately, the law enforcement community is limited by law in what we are allowed to say about ongoing investigations. In the case of Molly Young, we immediately referred the incident to the Illinois State Police to ensure an unbiased investigation. And in the case of Pravin Varughese, Pravin was reported missing 21 hours after he disappeared. The Carbondale Police Department took every possible action to find Pravin as soon as we were notified. I have children of my own, and my heart has broken for the loss of yours.

I have served in law enforcement all of my professional life, and I hope to continue to serve in some further capacity in law enforcement. I sincerely wish the residents of the City of Carbondale well. I have enjoyed my time working in Carbondale. Over my years of service, I have learned that when you receive a command from a superior you obey that command and do your best to implement it, whether you personally agree with or not. You do not debate it with others or act in a way that conveys your displeasure with your superior. I do not consider myself to be a person highly proficient in media relations, but I felt compelled to issue this press release to protect my reputation.

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