By Kevin Beese
February 9, 2017
Steps to replace the Maywood police dog circumvented the budget process and have raised glaring questions about chain of command in the village.
Efforts to replace the department’s canine, which died last year, have included writing cashier’s checks for a vehicle, dog and training because the items were not in the municipal budget, Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr. said. The vehicle, purchased to reactive the department’s K-9 unit, has sat on village property since November because the car does not have license plates nor is it insured, he added.
The $24,000 in expenses – $8,000 for the car, $10,000 for the dog and $6,000 for training — was drawn on drug forfeiture funds that are under the Maywood Police Department’s discretion. However, instead of getting a village check for the expenses, which would require two signatures, the system was circumvented by drawing a cashier’s check from the bank where the funds are held.
Norfleet said this week the fact that a proposal for the dog was made for this budget year, which runs through April 30, and turned down is troubling enough, but the purchases being made without his or Village Board approval raises red flags.
“It is more about the process,” Norfleet said, regarding his concerns. “How do you get fired up and buy a dog? You create checks for a dog and training – $10,000 for the dog, $6,000 for training? Who approved this? How do you get fired up and no one publicly knows? Expenditures are being made, decisions are being made without approval.”
Police Chief Val Talley admitted at last week’s village Legal, License and Ordinance Committee that he acted too swiftly on the issue, without having everything in order.
“I move too quickly, admittedly,” Talley told trustees.
“I will shore up the plan and present it then.” Norfleet said he turned down the K-9 unit proposal for this budget because it would have meant taking an officer off of patrol to handle the dog. “When you have a budget crisis scenario, you can’t start bringing things in,” Norfleet said. “We would have to hire another person. Even with a valid explanation for the need, this was literally turned down.”
Norfleet said he felt the personnel and other logistical issues warranted turning down the dog at this time.
“It is more than just a budget issue. It is a concept issue,” Norfleet said. “Do you really have so much activity to warrant a dog?” He said the chief’s actions raise a lot of procedural questions. “There are various issues,” the village manager said. “Who makes the decisions? Do you need approval? What process comes out of this? Can you leave the administration and go to the elected officials with something?”
The village manger said these are the first large purchases, to his knowledge, that have been made by the police chief with the forfeiture funds without village approval. He said the village is now going through and seeing what smaller expenditures have been made with the funds.
“I don’t think anybody should have the ability to issue checks or handle money except the Finance Department,” Norfleet said. “There shouldn’t be anyone else handling checks and making deposits. You can’t have a pot of money you are sitting on and spending at your own will. No one should have that.”
Norfleet said no action has been taken against the police chief for his actions. The village manager said that a reprimand or punishment could be discussed with village officials at a later date. All three purchases exceeded the village manager’s spending authority of up to $5,000 without Village Board approval.
No department heads have discretionary spending ability, Norfleet said. Any expenses not budgeted for must go through him, Norfleet said.
“The Police Department is a department under the manager’s office. There is not a dotted line from the Police Department to the Village Board,” Norfleet said.
“No one has the autonomy to do something like that. In reality, you have an operation with the ability to spend money without anyone knowing. My argument is not over the dog. It is about a major procedural issue and things not being done properly.”
Ironically, the revelation came to light at the same LLOC meeting where the village received a report on its most recent audit. Norfleet expected the police dog issue will likely be a recommended financial management area for improvement in the next audit.