And last summer, O’Dekirk, 51 – a former police officer who has cultivated a reputation for strength and law and order – rejected calls for his resignation from many leaders of the region’s black community.
Questions have surfaced about O’Dekirk’s sensitivity to minority issues after he clashed with a Black Lives Matter protester following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May 2020. He went on to defend the action. by claiming that he had acted in self-defense.
In an email to the BGA, O’Dekirk suggested that the controversies had been exaggerated and pointed to “considerable interest” in his ambitious water bodies.
He said the person was not a protester but rather “was participating in a riot”. The Will County State Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against O’Dekirk in August, but he, the city and some of its police officers face an ongoing federal lawsuit from the man at who he attacked and the brother of the man.
In his state of the city address, he praised the police for cracking down on what he described as a violent âmobâ that broke free from the peaceful protesters.
“We will never stand idly by and let lawlessness rule the day or rule the night,” O’Dekirk said in the speech.
One of the black leaders who called for O’Dekirk’s resignation after the incident was Joliet City Councilor Bettye Gavin. She represents the east side of the city, neighborhoods she says are in desperate need of water supply lines that don’t regularly collapse in cold weather.
âI didn’t think it was appropriate for the mayor of a town to rush around and grab someone like that,â Gavin said, adding that the incident had made it difficult for her to support the water body in the city. ‘O’Dekirk. âWhen you get these problems on top of each other, one can blow up the other.
âWe’ve been pretty neglected in terms of infrastructure on the east side,â she said. “We have to face these demons now.”
Gavin said O’Dekirk had a lot of work to do to gain the support of his constituents. She advocates for Joliet to provide assistance to residents who cannot afford rising water bills.
O’Dekirk also faced fallout from a 2019 police department memo regarding the mayor’s efforts to silence rumors of a federal investigation into corruption in the water deal.
The note, written by former Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner and reported in the Joliet Herald-News, documents O’Dekirk’s efforts to discredit a police sergeant who was speaking to people about the alleged investigation.
The sergeant told associates O’Dekirk and a friend “have land and are going to make money from a water deal, and the federal authorities are coming,” the mayor told Roechner, according to the memo. the ex-chef. “I’m sick of this (expletive).”
O’Dekirk also accused the sergeant – a former campaign employee of the mayor – of being publicly intoxicated when he made the comments, a charge which the chief said was not substantiated by proofs.
While working part-time as mayor, O’Dekirk is also the town’s liquor commissioner and runs a Joliet law firm specializing in family law and criminal law.
O’Dekirk’s tumultuous tenure has been a concern among officials in neighboring communities considering the water partnership.
Anderson, Minooka’s public works manager, said neighboring towns had been concerned from the start about the “volatile” politics prevailing in Joliet in general and around O’Dekirk in particular. So they banded together, he said, to force O’Dekirk to abandon his âproportionalâ representation plan, in which the vote in the regional water commission would be weighted in favor of Joliet and the other large cities.
âThe way he looks now, no one will be on a higher horse than anyone else,â said Anderson. âLarge and small communities, they will each have a voice. “
Mudron, the municipal councilor of Joliet, accepted. âThe regional group will be running the show, not the city of Joliet,â he said.
“It is necessary because there always seems to be a commotion here, always publicity, which is not good, and most of it seems to be caused by the mayor’s office,” he said. he declares.
Hugh O’Hara, executive director of the Will County Governmental League, said the precise impact of the O’Dekirk controversies is difficult to measure.
âI don’t think that’s a weird question,â he said. âThis project is much bigger than any community or any mayor,â O’Hara said. “By all accounts, Joliet got a really good deal from the city of Chicago.”
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