DECATUR – Former Decatur Police Chief Brad Sweeney filed a new version of his lawsuit against the city of Decatur on Friday, 10 days after a judge dismissed the original complaint.
The amended version drops City Manager Tim Gleason as a defendant. Macon County Circuit Judge A.G. Webber IV suggested doing so during an April 12 hearing on legal issues related to the case.
While some wording has changed, allegations contained in the lawsuit are substantially the same: that Gleason fired Sweeney Feb. 4 in retaliation for Sweeney's refusal to speak in favor of a local gas tax, and because Sweeney objected to Gleason's use of a police car and driver to reach the St. Louis airport for a personal trip.
Exhibits attached to the complaint reveal one new piece of information. A letter from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, dated March 14, says Sweeney was not fired for misconduct at work.
“The claimant was fired by the city manager due to a personal conflict between the two of them,” says the letter, which relates to Sweeney's eligibility for unemployment benefits. “The city has indicated that the dispute was personal and not related to the claimant's employment.”
Central to the case is the May 7 trip to St. Louis, where Gleason caught a flight to California for an event related to his son's service in the Army. He had changed his travel plans to attend the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce State of the City breakfast event that day.
During a deposition taken by Sweeney's attorney, Jon Robinson, Gleason said former Mayor Mike McElroy told him to take a police car and driver to accommodate the new travel plans. The 153-page deposition and related exhibits were filed April 12 by Ed Flynn and Jerry Stocks, the attorneys representing the city.
Gleason kept his original return flight to Peoria with a friend who was accompanying him on the trip, he said.
The flight out of St. Louis “worked out best,” considering his plans to meet up with the friend, while also allowing Gleason to attend the breakfast. However, his vehicle would have been stranded in St. Louis if he had driven himself.
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Upon further questioning by Robinson, Gleason said he did not reimburse the city for the cost of the travel. He cited other instances in which he, as a former police officer in Pekin, had driven people to the airport, or when Sweeney was driven to the airport to attend FBI Academy training.
“These are, in my consideration, an extension of the duties that we hold,” he said.
Sweeney's lawsuit alleges that he objected to Gleason's use of the police car, saying later that it was inappropriate and would not happen again. Their relationship was difficult afterward, the lawsuit says.
But in earlier filings and again in his deposition, Gleason maintained that Sweeney did not object to the use of the police car, and that he had several other reasons to fire Sweeney.
Reasons that Gleason has cited include:
- A shoplifting incident involving Sweeney's wife, which occurred in April 2015, was not reported to Gleason, who learned about it in January. Sweeney reportedly objected to subsequent investigation of how the incident was handled by the police department.
- That Sweeney was not truthful about having had a conversation with a third party regarding the city's dispatch center. In his deposition, Gleason said the third party was businessman and philanthropist Howard Buffett, and the lie was confirmed during a conversation with Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider.
- The former police chief allowed “personal animus” between himself and a contractor used by the landlord for police headquarters to negatively affect the city's relationship with the landlord, local developer Tony Romano.
- He failed to follow requirements governing asset forfeiture fund purchases.
- Sweeney “suggested he intended to retaliate” against an officer for following Sweeney's daughter's Instagram account. The same officer was involved in news of the shoplifting incident ultimately reaching Gleason.
- Starting Jan. 21, Sweeney “exhibited increased insubordinate behavior at meetings” that continued until he was fired.
In his deposition, Gleason also said he had contacted the Illinois State Police to investigate a case of eavesdropping and official misconduct involving Sweeney. The investigation began after Sweeney was fired.
Attorneys for both parties declined to comment. Flynn and Stocks previously told Webber that they would prepare to file a response to the amended complaint within 14 days of its filing.