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May 26, 2024

Shelby County Dive Team – Misinformation Is Dangerous -Especially When It Include Outright Lies

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On July 17, 2023

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

While the Shelby County Board took steps to schedule a special meeting to adopt the appropriate resolution as it relates to the operation of a county dive team, the uninformed are spreading misinformation and outright lies that have people stirred up to the point some are calling for the drowning of public officials as well as us.

One person’s post is worthy of exposure as it is one of a few leading the charge against the County Board and one of its members, Sonny Ross, who has been working on fixing this entire mess for over a month.

“Sonny Ross who is a board member and dive team committee member took it upon himself to put the team on “stand down”.

If anyone would actually talk to Mr. Ross and find out the truth of the matter they would find out this decision came about after over 2 weeks of trying to get answers on insurance coverage and was done only after seeking the appropriate legal input on how to protect the members of the dive team and the county.

“Our county board knew they didn’t have the proper insurance coverage back in 2020 when it was brought up at a meeting and tabled, nothing further was done.”

We challenge anyone to prove the county board knew about this matter back in 2020 and tabled it.  In order to table a matter there would be a motion and a second and a vote.  A review of our videos has not turned up any such action or discussion.

“Fast forward to know…we have to renew insurance annually, but for some reason, this has still not been corrected from 2020 by our current board members.”

When did the insurance company become aware that the county has never created a dive team?  Only after County Board member Sonny Ross tried to get answers to ensure things were done right.  Current board members have no reason to know about something that happen in 2020 unless they were to review records that had such information in them, which we have yet to locate.  Again, where is the evidence the former county board knew about this matter in 2020 as claimed?   If there is such a record, why is this group of uninformed people not casting dispersions against those responsible rather than those fixing what is broken?

“This whole “insurance issue” didn’t come about till after the dive team commander Austin was going to charge a fee for use of a camera to Illinois State Police for a non-emergency use to a county that shelby doesnt have a mutual aid agreement with. Which is what the current SOP says the commander is to do.”

We wrote our article on June 23, 2023, that outlined the ISP request for assistance and how an attempt to charge was not proper.  That article was the first public exposure we know of that the dive team did not have any organization documents, but it said nothing about insurance. However, before that article was ever published, Ross had already been working on the matter as it pertained to origination documents and seeking answers to questions to ensure things were corrected. The issue of insurance was being looked into weeks before any action was taken, which only happen after it was determined the team was not protected.

“Had he proceeded with them using our equipment and not charging them he would have been punished for not following the SOP. Lose/lose either way.”

The above statement is totally baseless because any such discipline is at the discretion of the Dive Team Commander and officers. So, if he violated policy are we to believe he would take action against himself?  More importantly, any attempt to punish someone for following a policy that technically does not exist results in no such punishment.  The policy was not adopted by the County Board but rather by a committee which has no authority to approve matters, and the commander knows it was never approved by the county board.

“Mr Sonny Ross himself knew about the insurance long ago, but sat and waited until now to put the dive team on stand down just hours after the call between Austin and the ISP.”

This statement is a total lie. The call between Austin and the ISP was in June. The stand-down directive was in July.  That is a far cry from being “hours” after the phone call the commander had with ISP. Additionally, the lack of protection for the team was not confirmed until the day the standdown was initiated.

“Supposedly on stand down over insurance, but everyone knows it’s over not letting ISP use the camera and Sonny personal issues with Austin.”

This allegation is the person’s opinion that gets shared as if true when in fact the two had nothing to do with each other and when the entire timeline is exposed a lot of people will need to do some reflecting on what they post.  No one wants the dive team to stand down over how a call went, including Sonny Ross.  I think everyone wants the dive team protected with county insurance.

“If it’s was over insurance why would we wait until right now to issue a “stand down” and not done it way before now??”

The stand-down directive was issued on the very day it was confirmed with legal counsel that the team was not covered if something were to happen.  Had it been confirmed sooner the same thing would have happened upon confirmation.

“Stand down in the middle of the busiest time for water accidents. This is a question Sonny has yet to answer for so many asking.”

The stand down came upon the confirmation of no protection for the team.  The fact it happened in July is not the fault of Sonny Ross.

“This led to Moultrie County having to make the trip here when a dive call was paged out yesterday. It’s a big mess that could have been easily avoided had the board done their job, but instead they are pointing fingers at past board members who didn’t make this right back in 2020.”

This last statement is a real zinger:  “instead they are pointing fingers at past board members who didn’t make this right back in 2020”.  From what we are seeing, the finger-pointing is all directed at the single person who has been diligently trying to fix a matter that has been broken for years.  Rather than pointing fingers, Ross was asking key questions of the Clerk, the Insurance Authority, and legal counsel, and doing what he could to fix the matter, not blame someone for it being broken.  Doing the right thing has now been spun to cast blame on Ross for reasons that make no sense.  They make no sense because the Dive Commander knew the issues raised in 2020, origination documents, has never been fixed and his policy was never adopted by the county board.  As far as Moultrie County making the call Saturday night, it appears to indicate the agreed upon mutual aid agreement worked as planned.  Is that any different than when the Shelby County dive team is not available to make a call because of staffing?

Social media has become the method of chumming the waters to stir up anger and encourage people to “protest” the County Board all while very few are seeking answers to the issues being gaslighted online.  We asked plenty of questions and we are more than confident that when the whole history comes out a whole lot of people should delete their posts and apologize for the spreading of so many lies and misinformation that led people astray.

A special County Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, 7/18/2023 and it appears once the action is taken to adopt a resolution properly forming the dive team operations should be able to commence.  While a few other matters still need to be corrected, those can be fixed over time without impacting operational readiness.


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1 Comment
  • kathiann54
    Posted at 10:11h, 18 July Reply

    We live in a post-truth culture….people don’t read the statutes, then don’t do them, because they don’t read them, or they do read them and don’t want to do them. The guy who says, wait a minute, let’s fix this thing, gets crucified because he puts a halt to the status quo. Like adults telling a toddler NO, commence the wailing and tantrum throwing. Then there are those who don’t CARE what the statute says, they will do what they please because now they are “the experts.”

    The truth takes a while to parse out, hence the way that social media half truths and outright lies spread by those who think they know, but really don’t, and those who just have uninformed or half informed opinions. Searching for the truth takes too much time for most people. As a member of the media myself, I take the responsibility to put out the facts very carefully because my own credibility is on the line and that’s important to me, but others have no such responsibility nor care to be that responsible. You would think the truth would spread on social media just as quickly as the lies, but it appears most really like to believe the worst. Watching the hits on our website articles, I find most people want to find out negative news more than anything else they want to know.

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