Police board resigns in Waterloo

The entire three-member board of police commissioners in Waterloo resigned recently, leaving a void for the moment at one level of local government. 

Per the City of Waterloo website, the police board “is responsible for testing, appointing, promoting, disciplining, suspending and discharging police department sworn personnel, except for the police chief. The board also conducts hearings on charges brought against a member of the police department.”

Police board members, upon appointment by the mayor, serve three-year staggered terms and meet as needed. 

The three board members, Norman Venable, Lonny Ludwig and Heather Garcia, submitted letters of resignation to Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith on Jan. 20 and Jan. 22, respectively.

The letters, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, are brief and to the point, not offering much in the way of explanations as to their decisions to resign.

“I feel that our ideals no longer align,” Garcia’s resignation letter states to Smith, adding in conclusion she “(does) not feel that (she) could remain in this position in good conscience.”

All three of the former board members were contacted in some fashion by the Republic-Times, but only Ludwig responded by email. He declined comment on the matter.

Per a second FOIA request, a letter sent from the board to Waterloo Police Chief Jeff Prosise in early January was obtained by the Republic-Times.

This letter references “possible charges” against Waterloo Police Officer Dan Pittman and Sgt. Eric Zaber that were submitted by Prosise for consideration on Jan. 3. 

Prosise, who said he could not comment on the current employment statuses of Zaber or Pittman, explained that the word “charges” in this letter refers to disciplinary actions or possible termination rather than anything criminal in nature.  

“After careful review and research of the possible charges, the board members’ subjective opinion is that there is not probable cause for a hearing against Officer Daniel Pittman and Sgt. Eric Zaber,” the letter from the commissioners to Prosise concludes.

Both Pittman and Zaber have been away from active duty on the police force for some months due to separate disability claims.

Zaber told the Republic-Times this week that “we’ve been told we are still employed” by the police department, referring to himself and Pittman. 

Also as part of the second FOIA request, several recent text message conversations between Venable and Prosise were obtained by the Republic-Times.

One such text – sent from Venable to Prosise at 8:49 p.m. on Jan. 5 – requested from the police chief copies of WPD regulations 1032.1 and 1032.2 plus city ordinances 30-2-11 and 30-2-6.

While city ordinance 30-2-6 deals with duties as a sworn officer with the police department, 30-2-11 states that “any member of the police department who shall neglect or refuse to perform any duty required of him or her by the rules and regulations of the police department, ordinances of the city or statutes of the State of Illinois, or who shall be, in the discharge of his or her official duties, guilty of any fraud, favoritism, extortion, oppression or willful wrong or injustice, shall be subject to removal from office.”

Since the resignation letters were sent, two special meetings of the Waterloo City Council have taken place, one last Wednesday evening and another Monday night. 

Both meetings were held in closed session for the listed purpose of discussing personnel, with no official action taken as a result.

When reached for comment Tuesday afternoon on the matter, Smith said he could not discuss specifics related to the police commissioners resigning, but said he is waiting to hear back from potential new appointees to this board.

“I need to find people to fill these positions and let them do their job,” Smith said.

One local resident who has been asked to serve on the police board is longtime former Waterloo Fire Chief Mark “Yogi” Yeager. 

Yeager confirmed to the Republic-Times late Monday afternoon he has been approached about this role and had discussions late last week with the police chief, deputy police chief and other city officials.

He has not yet made a decision, but said the sudden resignation of all three police commissioners “raises a red flag” for him.

“I’m not really sure if I want to get thrown into this fire,” Yeager said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
HTC web