Woodstock council members say their hands tied by state law
WOODSTOCK – The day after a closed-door session to discuss options for further punishment and the possible firing of Sgt. Chip Amati, Woodstock City Council members offered little hope that state law granted them any say.
Although officials wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the Tuesday night closed session, which lasted until about 11:30 p.m., they answered questions about the council’s role moving forward.
“I guess we served our major function last night – to be a sounding board, a release,” Councilman RB Thompson said.
Councilman Joe Starzynski said the council is handcuffed by state law when it comes to pursuing further action.
“There’s no way that you can expect something to happen if the [McHenry County] State’s Attorney’s Office refuses to bring a criminal case,” Starzynski said.
Council members reached for comment echoed the passionate sentiments they expressed during the open portion of Tuesday night’s meeting, which included about an hour and half of public and council comments concerning Amati.
An investigation by state police that started in August led to a 30-day suspension for Amati, who police found had misused the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System to check the background of his then-girlfriend.
For that, and for an inappropriate text requesting “sexy pictures” he sent to the woman’s 12-year-old daughter, the city’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners handed down Amati’s punishment in October.
Abuse of the LEADS system constitutes official misconduct, a felony, but Amati hasn’t faced criminal charges.
Local residents poured into Tuesday’s council meeting to voice displeasure about a punishment for Amati they view as too soft.
“The outcry from the public and the palpable emotion is something we have to consider, and yet we are bound by certain state law,” Councilman Mark Saladin said. “It can be frustrating.”