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In split vote, Flossmoor trustees fire Police Chief Jerel Jones

Flossmoor trustees reconvene after more than an hour in closed session to vote on a resolution terminating the employment of Police Chief Jerel Jones. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

In a split vote, with Mayor Michelle Nelson breaking the tie, Flossmoor trustees voted Monday, March 18, to terminate the employment Police Chief Jerel Jones, the village’s first Black chief.

Trustees Gary Daggett, Brian Driscoll and Jim Mitros joined Nelson in voting for a resolution dismissing Jones. Trustees Joni Bradley-Scott, George Lofton and Rosalind Mustafa voted against the resolution.

Before casting her vote, Nelson said the decision had not been made lightly.

“A year ago, we all had high hopes that Chief Jones would have a very long tenure here, and we were all very excited to welcome him to Flossmoor,” she said. “This decision has been made after thoughtful review of his performance. In my own opinion, it is best that we part ways, as disappointing as it may for those of us in this room.”

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Daggett also made a statement prior to voting, saying he had struggled with the decision and had listened to community members’ views.

“Jerel Jones is a good man. I believe that,” he said. “However, at this point I do not believe the relationship between Chief Jones and the village is tenable, and it best serves the community to move in a different direction.”

Bradley-Scott, Lofton and Mustafa each explained their stance before voting, too.

“Based on the public outcry and the concerns that people have of the village, safety and having a chief that meets their expectations, I’d say no,” Lofton said, referring to the resolution to terminate Jones’ employment.

“I have not heard any conversations, have not read anything to indicate that his performance, rises to the occasion of justifying termination,” Mustafa said. “I don’t see any egregious, unlawful, inappropriate, unethical behavior, no safety concerns in the community.”

The meeting attracted another standing-room-only crowd of well more than 100 people, similar to the size of the crowd at the March 4 meeting, when the question of Jones’ future with the village first surfaced publicly before the board.

A number of residents made comments, often impassioned, in support of Jones, and one woman spoke out in support of the board and Village Manager Bridget Wachtel. Public comment was extended 15 minutes to allow more people to speak.

The village and Wachtel were named as defendants in a federal lawsuit announced March 11 by attorneys for Jones. It cited racial discrimination as the cause of his employment trouble with the village.

At the meeting, the village made available copies of a motion to strike nine paragraphs from Jones’ complaint, calling those passages inappropriate and defamatory toward Wachtel.

A group of Jones’ supporters led by Shana Easterling and Kiana Jones (no relation to Jerel) were in front of village hall an hour before the meeting gathering signatures on a petition asking the village to be more transparent about the causes for Jones’ dismissal. They said they received about 100 signatures and plan to make the petition available online soon.

Note: A more extensive report from the meeting will follow.

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