On Thursday, Oglesby Public Safety Commissioner James "Cully" Cullinan informed Police Chief James Knoblauch he was replacing Knoblauch as head of the department.
WLPO filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a recording or transcript of the meeting, and the video of the brief but pivotal meeting is posted to the WLPO Facebook page.
The video shows Cullinan offered Knoblauch a demotion if he wished to stay on the force. Later, Cullinan said he’d explain his reasons for the move at tonight’s city council meeting. WLPO reminded the commissioner of his often-stated commitment to transparency. That prompted Cullinan’s explanation that he felt Mayor Dom Rivara tonight was planning to strip his authority to hire a new police chief. And, Cullinan says he didn’t actually fire Knoblauch, but instead filled a vacancy, since Knoblauch’s position expired with the last city council. In offering that explanation, Cullinan referred to the mayor as a dictator. For his part, Rivara earlier had expressed surprise at the firing and called it a “black eye” on Oglesby, but he declined to comment on the commissioner’s name-calling.
When the dust cleared a bit by Friday, it began to look like Cullinan had jumped the gun. State statute seems to say he’s supposed to give the council his reasons for firing the chief, and the firing doesn’t become official unless the majority of the council approves. And, it seems the city council is supposed to have a say in who becomes the new police chief.