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Where Art Thou… Complaint Review Board?

Former Mayor Charles V. Ryan established the Springfield Community Complaint Review Board in September, 2008, as the result of a settlement in a racial bias claim filed against the City of Springfield in 2004. According to this Republican article, the Board was created as part of a settlement in the racial bias complaint lodged against the City by the Pastors Council of Greater Springfield on behalf of black motorist Douglas Greer.

Back in November of 2004, Greer had reportedly suffered a diabetic attack in his car and claimed to have been pulled from his vehicle and roughed up by Springfield cops. (The police assert they were attempting to restrain the flailing and screaming Greer.)

Greer was also awarded $180,000 as part of the settlement.

In October of 2007, Ryan named nine appointees to the Review Board, and also announced that Melinda Pellerin-Duck (right) would serve as full-time coordinator of the Board, with an annual salary of $60,000. (The other board members received no salary.)

The Review Board members included:
H. Edgar Alejandro
Rev. Amos L. Bailey
Theodore C. Brown
Joseph O. Campbell
Carol J. Caulton
Jose Luis Claudio Sr.
William A. Hurley Jr.
Robert C. Jackson
Fernando E. Mendoza.

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So the winds of political fortune changed as November rolled by….

By December of 2007, a victorious Mayor-Elect Domenic Sarno was preparing to replace Mayor Ryan at the helm of the City of Springfield (well, figuratively speaking, since the Finance Control Board remained in actual control of the city). Sarno announced on December 17th that he was naming Denise R. Jordan as the chief of staff of his incoming Administration. He further announced that the coordinator of the Community Complaint Review Board, Pellerin-Duck, would be replaced by Jordan, who would be taking up the role of Review Board coordinator on a part-time basis. Sarno said the city would be saving taxpayers $45,000 by combining the two jobs. (Although the Fiscal 2009 Budget Report notes a savings of only $40,000 for combining the two jobs.) Jordan was to receive a reported $75,000 salary for her dual role as chief of staff and Review Board coordinator.

Soon-to-be former Mayor Ryan protested the change-over [see link - scroll down], noting at the time that consultants hired by the City had determined that a full-time coordinator was vital to the success of the Community Complaint Review Board. “There is no city in the country with a civilian review board that does not have a full-time coordinator,” Ryan reportedly said.

The City of Springfield reportedly invested $24,000 back in 2006 for the consultation and recommendation of a model for a civilian oversight board.

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Fast-forward to the present day and the Community Complaint Review Board is noticeable only in its lack of making any news. A Google search for the Review Board comes up practically empty. A Republican article from last fall mentions two meetings that year (November 26 and December 6) under then-coordinator Pellerin-Duck. The only other news is about Pellerin-Duck’s dismissal from the Board in favor of Jordan. There appears to be a marked absence of any word of complaints either submitted to or reviewed by a Board whose creation was deemed so imperative and that cost the City of Springfield so much: The $180,000 settlement; a $24,000 consultant fee; and a tacked-on $15,000 salary boost to chief of staff Denise Jordan for her “part-time” job (Pellerin-Duck’s $60,000 salary minus the $45,000 “in savings” declared by Sarno for combining the two jobs).

In a perhaps telling sign of how irrelevant the Community Complaint Review Board has become, a quick trip to the City’s website shows that, as of July 1st of this year, the Community Complaint Review Board’s page still has the originally-named members of the Review Board listed there – including Pellerin-Duck, who hasn’t been involved with the Board since her replacement at the end of last year.

In her brief tenure as the Review Board coordinator, Pellerin-Duck setup training sessions for all board members (slated to begin in January, 2008) and contacted community groups to arrange for meetings to explain the Review Board’s function, as outlined in the executive order that created it.

According to a quote from the City website found in Heather Brandon’s Urban Compass blog, the Review Board coordinator’s job consists of being responsible for “all of the day-to-day administration of the Board and serves as the liaison between the Board and other officials such as the Mayor or representatives of the Police Department… ..For assisting the Board in preparing annual reports to the City of activities engaged in by the Board, including recommendations that might be changed to promote better performance by members of the Police Department.”

Repeated phone calls on Friday and Tuesday to the City Clerk’s office in an effort to learn more about the Review Board’s current schedule and activities got only voice mail.

Sometime after Pellerin-Duck’s dismissal, Community Complaint Review Board member Jose Luis Claudio was reportedly informed that his services on the Board were no longer needed. In a phone call interview with The Intruder, Board member Joe Campbell said he received an envelope from the City, but that when he opened it up he found a letter addressed to Board member Fernando Mendoza. The letter thanked Mendoza for his time and informed him that he was being replaced on the Board. Campbell assumed Mendoza got his letter, in turn. In any event, Campbell said he never heard from the city again.

“It doesn’t matter,” Campbell said despondently. “They didn’t care…”

Rumor has it that Pellerin-Duck is outraged at what has happened to a Review Board that she spent so much time organizing before her removal.

Even more outraged should be, perhaps, the taxpayers and minority residents of Springfield, who have paid a stiff price for a Review Board that today has no visible sign of functioning as advertised.

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3 Responses to Where Art Thou… Complaint Review Board?

  1. Good story! Getting this administration to be accountable is an uphill battle. I talked to a Review Board member a month ago who told me they’ve only met twice and are still being trained by the Springfield Police Department to understand how the department works. Can somebody tell me how accountability works?

    michaelann bewsee
    July 2, 2008 at 7:37 am

  2. Good story Bill. What a farce!

    td
    July 6, 2008 at 3:32 pm

  3. The review board would come in handy right now. Cases like that of Louis Jiles, for example, deserve the scrutiny and crying need for police-civilian diplomacy such a board can offer.

    It seems like the review board had only just been established and didn’t have a chance to get its legs underneath it before it was dismissed as not very critical by the Sarno administration, upon arrival. Given how the feasibility of nixing the trash fee was apparently handled, how well was the need for a review board assessed?

    I’m very glad you were able to reach some members and find out what they were hearing.

    But ultimately I think Sarno should really answer for this, explain how this review board is going to function, and demonstrate what he’s doing about it. Its creation was part of a legal agreement, and what Ryan said during his last control board meeting about the need for a full-time coordinator should have been taken seriously. Sarno has pointed fingers at issues he sees as “inherited problems” from the previous administration; here’s one he seems to have created.

    Heather B
    July 8, 2008 at 6:42 pm