Coles Co. (ECWd) -
As most know, we are in what I call the silly season. That time of year when people running for office will say or do just about anything, to include fabricate negative information and lies in their effort to get people to vote for them.
At the local level, we are going to focus on the Coles County Sheriff race in this article as it is clear there are some very nasty and ugly lies being spread in that race. We reached out to both candidates and only one would respond to our questions.
A letter that was mailed out claiming to be from the "Citizens to elect Steve Spear" is where our investigation began. The letter is filled with misleading information and in some cases outright lies. The letter is not signed and since there are no registered "Citizens to elect Steve Spear" committees with the State Board of Elections, we have been unable to confirm who is behind this document creation and distribution. Spear has not disavowed the letter and has refused to respond to our questions that can be downloaded at this link.
Additionally, it should be noted that John Clough, a now-terminated state employee due to use of racial terms is backing Spear. Spear has not commented on the support from this disgraced former state worker and former Coles County Deputy. We have been told, but can't confirm, if Spear is elected he would make John Clough his appointed Chief Deputy.
We provided Sheriff Rankin a copy of the questions presented to Spear regarding the letter since they were basically attacks on his administration. He responded to the applicable portions of the questions which can be found at this link. One point that should be of interest to the voters is this statement from Sheriff Rankin.
"I have never received a phone call or email or had a face to face visit from Sgt. Spear regarding any of the concerns or ideas for improvements he has voiced in his bid for election."
Additional investigation on our part stems from numerous tips we received regarding Sherriff Rankin, of which all proved to be totaly false.
False Tip: Sheriff Rankin is not qualified to carry a gun because he has not taken his annual training.
Truth: Sheriff Rankin's firearm training records reflect qualification training dates of 05/2015, 6/2/2016, and 8/23/17
False Tip: Sheriff Rankin did not have cancer.
Truth: Sheriff Rankin was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma 9/12/2016 ( we have a copy of the medical record)
False Tip: Sheriff Rankin used his false cancer claim to raise funds for himself.
Truth: A "Benefit For Jimmy Rankin" account was established by Darrell Duzan of Arthur. The account required two signatures, of which one was the wife of Jimmy Rankin and the other of Darrell Duzan. The only funds Jimmy Rankin used from that account was to cover the insurance deductible related to his cancer treatment. It was stipulated by Jimmy Rankin that if there were any funds left after potential medical costs they would be donated to local groups to support the community. We have confirmed that over 21 local groups received the unused funds from that account. Payments to those group ranged from $2000 to the Mattoon YMCA to $625 to numerous charities and youth support groups to include Ashmore Mentoring Program and Hope of East Central Illinois.
A recent debate between the Sheriff candidates provided us with some additional insight on the Candidates. We will only address verifiable false statements made during the debate.
Spear did boast about the former Sheriff Darrel Cox supporting him. That is troubling in light of the illegal gun sales and violations of court orders to destroy guns that took place under Darrel Cox's terms in office.
We identified 4 false statements during the debate: (VIDEO)
Steve Spear: "As is stated in the statute, the first job of the Sheriff's office is Law Enforcement."
We challenge Mr. Spear to provide any statue that says what he claims. For those that want to read for yourself, go to this link that covers the office of Sheriff and their obligations. The term Law Enforcement is made nine times in the statute and not a single one of those is in relation to the claim by Spear that it is the first job of the Sheriff. One can only wonder why he would say the law says something when no such wording is found in the law.
Steve Spear: "I'm not a politician, I'm a cop"
This one is for the humor it brings as we hear this statement all the time from those running for office for the first time. Do they not realize anyone running for office is a politician?
Spear: "There are at least 5 Boards that are required"
This response is of interest because of the false allegations in the letter sent out pertaining to attendance at other meetings. Spear makes the statement that they are required. We asked him to provide us with the statute that outlines those requirements and got no response. We note that no response could be because there are no such requirements for attendance on the numerous boards he listed found in any state law.
Spear: "I was just discussing this with an officer, actually the last officer that updated our policy & procedures manual in 2011."
Considering the current Policy manual has references to new laws and pay schedules with the year 2015, it has been updated. Although there may be many parts that need updating, a blanket statement that they have not been updated since 2011 is not true.
We have confirmed that Officer Spear was reprimanded for neglect of duty in July of 2017 for failing to radio CECOM that he was out of his vehicle. That is when he was caught at John Clough's residence with what appeared to be campaign material in his hand. Once seen, its' reported he handed off the material to Clough, who is the Republican GOP Chairman. Spear filed a grievance over the matter citing that since he did not miss a call or radio traffic there was no neglect of duty. His grievance was based on a typo pertaining to the policy number for Neglect of Duty. Based on Article 13, Section 13.1 of the parties' collective bargaining agreement. "the aforementioned grievance was denied.
Another discipline issue in September of 2016 regarding the patrol vehicle at Spear's residence while on vacation is Spear's apparent disregard for the policy based on past practice. "This line in the S.O.P has never been enforced to the best of my knowledge during my entire employment." We can only wonder what value a policy has if the justification for not following it is past practice?
S.O.P 110 - "An officer assigned a "take home" vehicle, shall leave the vehicle at the Coles County Sheriff's Office, whenever the officer is on approved leave for five (5) or more days unless otherwise directed by the patrol supervisor or another administrative officer."
For those that have not read the Spear campaign letter and watched the debate video, we encourage you to do so because it appears a lot of the questions presented came from the issues raised in the Spear campaign letter. Issues that we have asked for a response to and he has refused every opportunity to respond to the misrepresentation and lies.
We do not endorse candidates but we do expose misrepresentations and lies in what they say during the campaign.
We urge voters to be informed!