Sauk Village police chief back on the job

January 24, 2012 3:21:34 PM PST
The police chief in suburban Sauk Village was back on the job Tuesday, one day after being locked out of his own police department.

Some village trustees changed the locks in a dispute with the mayor of Sauk Village who appointed Robert Fox chief.

The police chief is talking to ABC 7 about the court decision that put him back on the job. Whether village trustees like it or not, a Cook County judge ruled that Sauk Village Mayor Lewis Towers has the authority to appoint Robert Fox as his police chief.

Fox has been working without a salary or contract for two months. The village board tried to limit Lewis' powers by passing a village ordinance that did not hold up in court Tuesday.

One day after being locked out of his office by two village trustees, Sauk Village Police Chief Robert Fox was allowed back in. Ever since he was appointed by the mayor last November, Fox has been caught in the middle of a power struggle between the mayor and the village board. It came to a head Monday when Fox came back from lunch and realized the locks were changed.

"Surprised is an understatement," Fox said Tuesday. "I was really taken back that some of the elected officials would stoop to a level of that nature."

Mayor Lewis Towers appointed Fox police chief without board approval. The board responded by passing a law that limits the mayor's appointment powers to two 30-day periods.

Fox was locked out when his 60 days were up.

"The village board does not have any issue with this particular chief, it's a checks and balances of the village board and the mayor and the struggle of powers between those two," said Michael McGrath, attorney for Village of Sauk Village.

But, the mayor and Fox challenged the new village law in court. Because Sauk Village is not home ruled, a Cook County judge says the small south suburban village must follow state law, which does not limit the mayor's appointment power.

"So, if there is a logjam, the wheels of government have to continue to move, and that is what the judge found, that even if there is a fight between the mayor and the village board, government must continue to operate," said John Murphy, Mayor Lewis Towers' attorney.

"We are really pleased and happy with the outcome, and we thank the judge for ruling in our favor," said Sauk Village Mayor Lewis Towers.

The next step is giving the chief a paycheck. Fox has been working without one because the board never approved his salary.

"The money is not always key. Sometimes you have to fight for stuff based on principle," said Fox.

At the mayor's request, Fox was issued a paycheck last month. The board responded by suspending with pay the village treasurer and manager for issuing the pay check.

In court, the salary issue was talked about. The village attorney says Fox will eventually get paid.

The mayor hopes the board will approve a permanent position for Fox.