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June 22, 2024

Shelby County Dive Team Quits After County Resolution

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 19, 2023

Shelby Co., Ill. (ECWd) –

The Shelby County Board held a special meeting on July 18, 2023, for the sole purpose of formally establishing the Dive Team, an action which would result in guaranteed insurance coverage and TORT immunity coverage.  It also ensured the dive team could continue operating in and around Shelby County, Illinois. The resolution also included the use of the current policies, excluding the portions related to charging fees for services, which is not legal.

The dive team objected to several paragraphs of the original resolution which included key oversite measures and appointments as to who is in charge, much like any other normal government operation.  As a compromise to their concerns, the board amended the resolution by removing those portions from the original resolution.  The county board then voted unanimously to approve the amended resolution. Notably, after the unanimous vote, there was applause from pretty much everyone in the room, including several dive team members.  At that point, I think everyone was pleased the matter was resolved and things would move forward.

Not so Fast

During public comment, the dive team commander gave his comment and made it clear he can not work with county board member Sonny Ross.  Then, with prepared statements, members of the dive team began publicly submitting their resignations one at a time with the dive team commander standing by each one of them with his hand on their shoulder in support of their quitting the dive team. After each one, there was an orchestrated uproar from the public shouting demands for the board member to resign and begging the dive member not to resign.  This continued until each dive member quit and turned in their prepared statement. The commander then spoke again, and he also turned in his resignation to the board.

History:

  • In 2006, the State’s attorney at the time asked the Attorney General for an opinion related to the dive team charging for recovering personal items from the lake.  Within that document they point out there there is no indication as to how this dive team was organized and its relationship to the county. (See footnote on bottom of page 2 of the opinion). By all indications, the matters outlined in that opinion have been ignored and the very charges they were told are not allowed can still be found in the current policy.
  • In January 2020, the Dive Team commander asked for assistance from us and was provided numerous key matters to address, including the need to ensure the team had the proper documentation standing them up as a dive team under county control. There has been no evidence that any of those matters were ever resolved until during this meeting, three and half years later. (Article that includes Communication with Dive Team Commander
  • On or about June 23, 2023, the Dive Team was asked by the State Police to assist in the potential recovery of a body, the Commander insisted the State Police agree to a $1000 payment for assistance.  The ISP refused and no assistance was provided from the dive team.
  • On July 12, 2023, the Dive Team was given notice to stand down for several reasons, including, but not limited to, they had never been properly established by the county board, serious questions on whether they were actually protected with insurance, and lack of TORT protections.
  • On July 18, 2023, we published almost two dozen emails from the insurance company’s defense attorney and claims representatives of which several pointed to the fact they were arguably not covered under the county insurance.
  • On July 18, 2023, the county board approved a resolution establishing the Dive Team and placing them under the Public Safety Committee for oversight. This resolution was the first major step this new board took to correct the matters they identified that must be fixed for the protection of both the team and the county. 
  • Even though the reason for the stand-down directive was resolved with the resolution, the Dive Team members all chose to quit, most reading prepared statements.

We note that two TV stations were there with cameras, which has not happened in several years.  With the prepared resignation letters and the TV crew’s presence, the appearance was they all intended on resigning and wanted it captured on the local news stations.

As it stands now, we understand the Shelby County Board will be seeking volunteers for the dive team operations in hopes of ensuring their services are available to the county and other areas that may need their assistance.

PART 2: After Executive Session:

PART 1: Last few minutes of the committee meeting and first part of County Board meeting:

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5 Comments
  • Cindy
    Posted at 10:21h, 20 July Reply

    Leave it to government to screw up everything. Final word. We don’t need your chaos that you call oversight.

  • Kirk Allen & John Kraft
    Posted at 10:56h, 20 July Reply

    If you don’t need oversite can you explain why so many things had not been corrected or fixed? How is it that credit was applied for and issued yet there is no record of that with the county who is paying the bills? Who authorized fuel cards? How is a dry suit paid for under a line item for training? Isn’t it because the other part of the budget was blown so it was recorded as training that had funds available, even though it was not training? While I understand when a group has never had to answer to anyone on such matters, those days are over.

    • Cindy
      Posted at 10:05h, 21 July Reply

      LOL You made up a word. Yes, oversight is never needed when you have integrity and pride in doing a job well. Having oversight will never discourage criminals and grifters. So what is your point?

  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 14:56h, 20 July Reply

    Clearly, it’s easier to quit than to answer embarrassing questions, particularly so, when public funds are in question. Dive team members that no longer wish to provide a service to the community and want to be politicians should run for office. Otherwise, this is not Burger King, you don’t get to have it your way.
    If funding and insurance are things you seek from taxpayers, then you have to become a real team member. Play by all the rules, follow all of the procedures. Good riddance to cry babies.

  • Droopy: Master Sergeant
    Posted at 16:28h, 20 July Reply

    I think it begs the question, what was the training that was going to be done. Rumor has it they were assisting a local company with an underwater construction project. That would be use of public property for a private purpose. Just because it is labeled training does not make it ok.
    The commander states on a local tv station if he has to file a simple report as to what the training will be then he needs a salary?
    Bottom line is he was caught in a lie and using public property at taxpayer expense. Gig is up!

    Seems to be a common problem in Shelby county.

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