Jim Kuchenbecker resigned from his post as Canton Public Safety Director Monday amid revelations that he was under investigation by the City of Washington for alleged misconduct, according to Mayor Jeff Fritz.
Kuchenbecker, who served as Washington police chief for nine years before assuming the public safety director position, issued his resignation Monday morning following extensive media attention, Fritz said.
"(He) thought it was causing a distraction and wasn't in the best interest of the city or the police and fire departments, so felt it was best to resign," Fritz said.
The Washington Times-Reporter last week reported that through the Freedom of Information Act, it had obtained a one-page confidentiality agreement between Kuchenbecker and the City of Washington that said both parties agreed not to "disclose any information pertaining to an investigation of certain allegations of potential misconduct on the part of the chief."
It was dated June 3 — one day prior to Kuchenbecker's Canton appointment — and both Kuchenbecker and Washington City Administrator Tim Gleason had signed it.
Fritz said the City of Canton was aware of the City of Washington's investigation and added it had taken other steps prior to Kuchenbecker's appointment.
"We knew about it, but we did do a background investigation, and we did follow up with references," Fritz said.
It is possible the investigation contributed to Kuchenbecker's retirement as Washington police chief. He announced his retirement June 5, midway through a two-year employment contract with the City of Washington, the Times-Reporter said.
Using remaining vacation and personal time, Kuchenbecker went on leave until his official retirement on June 30. He began work as Canton's Public Safety Director in early July.
Though he's worked roughly two weeks, a final draft of Kuchenbecker's employment agreement had not yet been approved by the Canton City Council. Council members opted to table the agreement for the next full meeting on July 16, citing the council's need to see a copy with previously determined changes made to it.
The agreement was also on the agenda for Tuesday's clerical committees meeting, though Fritz said the council likely wouldn't act on it.
"The agreement will be a moot point now," Fritz said. "We'll probably just not move to take any action on it."
However, Fritz said an agreement was not necessary for the appointment and added Kuchenbecker had been "working under the city's personnel policies" since early July.
"The employment agreement is not a legal aspect of the appointment itself," he said. "As a matter of fact, when I came in as chief of police, I didn't even have an employment agreement. That's something you don't have to have. Illinois is an 'at will' state."
Still, Fritz said Kuchenbecker will be compensated for his time worked. His appointment included a $90,000 annual salary.
Page 2 of 2 - Fritz also added that as of Monday evening, he did not know how the City of Canton would proceed following Kuchenbecker's resignation.
"It happened this morning, so that's something I will be sitting down with the council and other staff and determine how we'll go forward," Fritz said.
Following his installment in May, Fritz created the positions of public safety director and community services director to serve in lieu of a city administrator. The council voted last month to change both the ordinances creating the City of Canton's police and fire departments to include a public safety director. The public safety director would oversee both the police and fire departments instead of police and fire chiefs.