CARBONDALE — Former Carbondale Police Chief Jody O’Guinn says that right after City Manager Kevin Baity fired him, Baity took him to get a gun.
O’Guinn, who was dismissed Aug. 18 after five years as the city's police chief, says he was immediately required to turn over his badge, his city phone and the keys to his city vehicle, effectively leaving him stranded at the Carbondale Civic Center. One other piece of city equipment remained at his home: a city-issued firearm, which O’Guinn had chosen not to use in favor of a weapon he brought with him from his previous law enforcement work in Alton.
Baity drove O’Guinn across town, and O’Guinn said they did not exchange any words throughout the duration of the trip. Once at his home, O’Guinn went inside while Baity waited in his truck. O’Guinn retrieved the weapon from a gun safe inside and brought it outside to Baity. The two shook hands, O’Guinn said, and Baity departed.
Last week, Baity said the firing had nothing to do with a recent series of controversial cases — a notion O’Guinn has contested, saying the only other information he was provided was that his car allegedly had not been seen enough at police headquarters during the most recent 30 days. He added that he “absolutely” felt his termination was the result of the unsolved deaths of Molly Young and Pravin Varughese, in addition to the theft three years ago of his personal handgun, which later turned up as the weapon in a murder.
Councilwoman Jane Adams has turned a critical eye on the firing, saying the city manager has an obligation to deal with employees “in an ethical and moral way” and that the firing could prevent O’Guinn from ever getting another law enforcement job.
In a mass email sent to subscribers, Adams said she and other members of the City Council didn’t learn of City Manager Kevin Baity’s decision until moments before it was made public, and even then, they were given no more than the “confidential matter” explanation formally issued by the city.
Adams acknowledged Baity’s authority over city employment matters but questioned whether the decision was made in the correct way.
“Common decency — not to mention good management and the city’s own disciplinary procedures — require that an employee perceived to be performing poorly be given the opportunity to meet management’s standards,” Adams wrote. “If the problem is one of differing views of the direction of the department, then the department head should be given the opportunity to find another position.”
Adams noted that O’Guinn had not received a performance review in more than two years, and he also received no severance package of any kind following his dismissal.
“As a result of the city manager’s action, Mr. O’Guinn may never be able to get a job in his professional field again. He deserved better,” Adams wrote. “Whatever the narrow legal, or broader political, justification for the City Manager’s actions, this is not the way I want the city to which I’ve given my heart to treat the people who work for us.”
When contacted on Tuesday, Baity said he had no further comment on the issue.
Late last week, O’Guinn said he had filed an appeal of his termination with a city labor board in an attempt to “clear my name." O’Guinn said he has to exhaust all of his options so that he can search for a new job without a cloud hanging over him.
“If they had a good reason they wanted to dismiss me, I’ll just move on,” he said. “I’ve only tried to do my job.”