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Centralia aldermen hear outcry over CPD-related decisions

Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 6:14 am

Bias, Kribbs, Feger, McGee, speak

It was not what they came for, but the 50-plus members of the audience for Monday night’s Centralia Board of Aldermen meeting got to hear their aldermen unanimously approve Nat Stoebe as interim Chief of the Centralia Police Department and the retaining of Cunningham, Vogel and Rost PC for city personnel issues,

Then, as Ward I Alderman David Wilkins said, “and now what you’ve all been waiting for.”

Centralia Mayor Chris Cox – left, Former Centralia Chief of Police, Bob Bias, right. Fireside Guard photo collage.

The audience wanted to hear why Bob Bias was no longer chief of the Centralia Police Department and why Patrick McGee was fired from the department.

With only one exception, they mostly got to hear each other speak.

Other than listening, city officials took no action.

Eleven people, including city attorney Cydney Mayfield spoke on the topic.

Mayfield was the only city official to make a statement.

Former alderman Jessica Orsini, who asked if the aldermen had considered accepting former chief’s Larry Dudgeon offer to temporarily lead the department.

Centralia Mayor Chris Cox said he had received that offer and Dudgeon had since retracted it.

Former Chief Bias was one of the speakers. He recounted his history with the department and complimented the people of Centralia.

Regarding his return as chief after previously serving here as assistant chief he said “I was elated, this is home… On September 23 I was asked for my resignation. The reason given that the leadership within the department was not going the way the administration thought it should be… This was not an early retirement for me… Those words never did not come out of my mouth…”

Centralia Interim Police Chief Nat Stoebe

“I did not want to resign, but with the issues of the past several weeks, I decided it may be best for my family and myself.

“I’ve grown to love serving the citizens of Centralia and call this town home. I personally want to thank each and every one of you citizens for giving me that opportunity. To the city council, As you look at past events I will be happy to assist you in any way I can with your investigation. I don’t have a problem with that. To the remaining officers of the Centralia Police Department I say to you, stay safe, always do  your best to serve the citizens with the professionalism and integrity I know exist in each of you. It has been my pleasure to serve with you. I walk away from this experience with my head held high, my integrity intact and I will leave you with this. I know not what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. It is not any of the people in this room.” The crowd applauded as he left the microphone.

Former CPD Lt. Tim Kribbs also spoke. He said there were concerns not addressed “and actions, that in good conscience, I cannot participate in.” He said he was not asking for his or Bias’ job back. He said he was asking for transparency in the issues before the aldermen. “Any law firm that has been hired, I would be happy to speak with and help them in their investigation.”

Former officer Logan Feger said it had become increasingly difficult to work there “because of the lack of accountability on the part of the city administrator.” He also accused the city of making “veiled threats against the chief if he did not go along with the firing of an officer…If we have an officer fired for violating a policy that does not exist… This is not acceptable, something has to change. He called the community support overwhelming. We don’t’ do this job for money, but for the love of the people… This could have all been prevented.”

Centralia resident Jan Hughes asked about accountability and lauded Bias and the others for their community service. “We pay their salary and we should know why you guys felt the need to fire them.”

Mayfield addressed the termination of Patrick McGee and defended that in terms of violations of procedures including, she said, not reading a juvenile suspect their Miranda rights. “He did an investigatory interview with a child under the age of 10 years old without providing Miranda rights to this child,  obtaining parental permission to question this child and afterwards the city contacted by the Boone County Juvenile Department regarding this… She offered a form, an “Authorization for release of confidential personnel file information” whereby McGee could surrender his nondisclosure rights and allow the city to provide all its documentary evidence to the public regarding the alleged policy violation.

“Yes,  I apparently a violated policy,” McGee said after he took the microphone to defend himself. “If you take in the totality of the circumstances of the entire call, I was doing a social services call. How am I going to charge an eight-year-old child with a bad touch crime when there is nothing on any state statute about that age? We’re investigating all the information to give it up the chain, to the children’s division, the juvenile office, that’s what I did. Actually I did not question a juvenile without parents or guardians, the grandmother was right there telling me to talk to the granddaughter. So the violation of policy did not flow with the incident that actually occurred… “

He said he had exculpatory evidence, including a recording.

“If you’ve got something,” Mayfield said, “I would think the city would like to see that and we will be having an internal investigation…”

Former Centralia Police officer Patrick McGee

“Absolutely,” McGee said. “One hundred percent.”

After pro-McGee cheers from the audience subsided, Cox, holding up the release form

“If you’d like to sign this, release of your personnel file…” Cox said, “we’d be glad to be transparent. There it is.”

McGee walked up to Cox and accepted the form as audience members applauded.

“Talk to me before you sign it,” Bias told McGee as he left the microphone.

Callie Woolfolk spoke next, saying the city owed Bias and officers an apology. “A huge debt of gratitude and an apology. I think you and your officers deserve better… … The public does not know what  has happened here and deserves an explanation. We are losing some great men…”

Two of the last three speakers were of some note, though for different reasons.

First, Derrick Roberts, a current CPD cadet: “They’re here to serve and protect you… The people that you want to fire.”

Then former mayor Tim Grenke, who cast the deciding, tie-breaking, vote to hire Bias as chief in that same room, three years earlier, spoke. He discussed the hiring process. “Bob Bias knew the community, he knew what was expected of him and he knew how to run a department,” Grenke said, defending his part in hiring Bias. He then told the council he was ashamed of them. “You have to do the right thing… Think long and hard of the actions you are going to take and do the right thing.”

After Wilkins called three times for additional comment and none came, the aldermen unanimously voted to adjourn the meeting.

Afterward Cox contacted the Fireside Guard and said:
“If anyone wants to come in and file a formal complaint, they are welcome to come to City Hall and do so.”