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Woodstock: No further penalty for Amati

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 11:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 12:05 a.m. CDT

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WOODSTOCK – Any residents still hoping city staff would find a way to increase the punishment for Sgt. Chip Amati don’t have to wonder any longer.

The city of Woodstock issued a news release Wednesday afternoon that says no further disciplinary action is legally possible, and that the city and City Council won’t consider the issue any further.

The two-page statement also provides an overview of the situation and defends Amati’s 30-day suspension without pay, the much-scrutinized punishment recommended by the police chief and city and handed down by the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners in October.

“The decisions of two state’s attorney’s offices to decline to file criminal charges were a major factor in the disciplinary measures recommended and implemented by city staff,” it reads.

Residents had filled the Woodstock City Council chambers at a Dec. 17 meeting, expressing their disgust with the punishment and calling for Amati’s firing.

The council called a special executive session that night to discuss their options to further punish or fire Amati. During that session, they told city staff to research those options, according to the release.

At another executive session at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 21, the City Council discussed the findings of the staff and ultimately decided it could take no further steps, the release said.

“It was an inevitable decision,” said Councilman RB Thompson, who missed the Jan. 21 meeting but was aware of Wednesday’s release. “The law directs us in what our conclusion was. We had no other alternatives. We examined everything, but that’s inevitably what we had to come to.”

The city concluded that Amati couldn’t go back in front of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners without a change in circumstances.

City Manager Roscoe Stelford deferred to the city’s attorney for the legal specifics.

Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle, which represents Woodstock, wasn’t able to provide comment Wednesday afternoon.

“I can tell you my understanding ... Unless there was some factor or something changed, there’s no ability to bring that back to the board,” Stelford said.

He declined to comment on whether criminal charges in the case would warrant a new hearing.

“I would have to consult with the city attorney’s office to see if that’s sufficient enough to bring it back to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners,” he said.

Amati was the subject of an Illinois State Police investigation that started in August after his ex-girlfriend came forward alleging Amati sent inappropriate texts to her daughter. The Chicago Tribune reported Amati had asked the 12-year-old for “sexy pictures.”

Police also discovered Amati was misusing the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, including one occasion in which he checked his ex-girlfriend’s background. Misuse of LEADS can be prosecuted as a criminal felony, but the city raised doubts in Wednesday’s release as to whether Amati’s misuse would qualify.

“City staff’s research to date has determined in the infrequent case when an Illinois officer has been criminally charged with official misconduct for the misuse of LEADS, the charges were generally associated with cases in which the misuse furthered a separate crime such as burglary,” the statement reads.

Given the facts and the time to digest, Thompson said he leans “more yes than no” on whether Amati’s punishment is ultimately suited to his misconduct.

“You have to keep in mind a flawless record of 24 years for Amati,” he said. “In his private life, he made a comment that could be misinterpreted.”

Stelford was asked the same question.

“Based on the fact and the circumstances that we had to work with, this is the best result that the city could achieve in this matter,” he said.

Amati was due to make about $93,000 this year before the unpaid suspension, which has started and will be served intermittently at the department’s discretion. The 48-year-old will be eligible for his police pension at age 50, Stelford said.

Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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