CAHOKIA – St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson, as a trustee of Cahokia police pensions, apologized to fellow trustee Francella Jackson on Oct. 17, for his behavior at a previous board meeting.
Jackson accepted the apology at a regular meeting of the board on Wednesday.
Watson draws a Cahokia pension, almost $10,000 a month, from his former job as police chief.
On July 18, Jackson sent a formal complaint against Watson to board chairman Ben Callahan, mayor Curtis McCall, trustees, and board counsel Dennis Orsey.
In explaining what led to Watson’s outburst toward her, Jackson wrote that she tried to get information about a pension calculation for sergeant Keith Bowers. She wrote that Watson interrupted and said she didn’t need the second page of the document.
According to Jackson, he asked other members if they wanted a copy, and they replied no. She asked for the document again.
“It was at that time that trustee Watson got up out of his seat, used profanity toward me and left the room to make a copy of the document I requested,” Jackson wrote.
“In my opinion, his behavior was quite unnecessary. It was also extremely disrespectful and disruptive in nature.”
“This type of behavior cannot go unchallenged. We were both appointed by mayor Curtis McCall to serve on the board.
“As such, we are required to be professional and show respect to fellow board members.
“As I stated in the meeting, it is my hope that this is an isolated event.”
Watson, Democrat, faces a tough re-election race from Republican Nick Gailius, retired Fairview Heights police chief.
Gailius has made Watson’s pension benefits a campaign issue, claiming someone at the pension board improperly boosted his pay shortly before he retired in May 2011.
A 33 percent pay raise in five weeks before Watson’s retirement set his first year’s benefit at $95,596.80, when he would have received $71,732.70 without it.
On Sept. 12, in public comments before a special meeting on a separate topic, mayoral candidate Donna Ayres said he should pay the village back and resign.
Jackson said, “We will get to the bottom of this.”
Trustees voted to take it up at the next regular meeting, on Oct. 17.
Higher authorities had already intervened.
On Sept. 11, state insurance department director Jennifer Hammer signed a warrant for an examination of the pension fund.
The warrant expressed no specific purpose, but rather authorized a full review.
The state performs such a review every ten to 12 years, chairman Callahan said after the board meeting.
“Coincidence?” he said. “We don’t know.”