Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) -
Early in April we received word that the Sheriff had conducted interviews for the open secretarial position due to the retirement of the previous secretary.
In the interview process, the Sheriff invited Nanette Crippes, Edgar County Emergency Telephone System Director, "ETSB", and Nancy Zeman, part-owner of the Prairie Press weekly paper, to assist in interviewing the candidates.
Nanette Crippes and the ETSB have no connection with, and is not employed with, the Edgar County Sheriff's Department - which makes me wonder why she was part of the interview process.
Nancy Zeman, is not an employee or officer of Edgar County, and in my opinion, and especially as part-owner/writer for a local weekly paper, should never be part of the interview process for the Sheriff's secretary. In her response to my questions, Nancy responded with "I was asked to join the interview process based on my experience as a business owner and longtime resident of Edgar County. Sheriff Wood was seeking to make the interview process more open, which I fully support."
So this creates somewhat of a conflict with the "unbiased" reporting they have claimed in the past, but became apparently biased during the run-up to the November 2014 election cycle with the reporting of obviously manufactured disagreements between the ETSB and the Sheriff's office - which vanished into thin air after the election.
Additionally, in order to determine exactly what went on during the interviews, I requested those records from the Sheriff's office. The FOIA request is past the mandatory 5 day response time with no acknowledgement of when they will respond.
The Freedom of Information Act specifically addresses issues with non-officers and non-employees of public bodies and their access to records in Section 3(a). It states that "
Notwithstanding any other law, a public body may not grant to any person or entity, whether by contract, license, or otherwise, the exclusive right to access and disseminate any public record as defined in this Act.
This applies in this situation where they have, thru not answering the FOIA request, granted Crippes and Zeman exclusive rights to access and disseminate those records involved in the interview process. Additionally, the Illinois Supreme Court has already determined that when a record is provided to any party outside the public body, it automatically becomes a public record under FOIA (unless another law specifically prohibits its release).
I will exercise Section 11 of FOIA next week and file a lawsuit in Edgar County Circuit Court to obtain access to those records.
Who was hired?
They hired as the secretary, Jamie Sturgell. She is the daughter-in-law of Terry Sturgell who writes a column on the Ag page in the Prairie Press and she is also the mother of Kathy Rhoads’ granddaughter. As Chamber director, Kathy Rhoads (former employee of the Paris Beacon News) makes it very apparent that she supports the Prairie Press. It just seems like the person they hired has a lot of ties to the Prairie Press, with the help of Zeman, which would make it hard for them to say that anything they report on regarding the Sheriff’s Department was unbiased. Additionally, she is the daughter of Keith Trogdon (Dist 4 school board) and niece of Kevin Trogdon (former Edgar County Board Member).
Please do not confuse this article as attacking Jamie Sturgell, because that is not the purpose of this article, it's merely to point to what I consider flaws in the hiring process within Edgar County government and to inform the general public as to what they can most likely expect related to reporting on Edgar County Sheriff Department issues in the future..