SPRINGFIELD -- A former Springfield deputy police chief forced out of a high-level position with a state police agency after 10 days on the job said his political affiliation could have played a role in his ouster.

SPRINGFIELD -- A former Springfield deputy police chief forced out of a high-level position with a state police agency after 10 days on the job said his political affiliation could have played a role in his ouster.


Clay Dowis was asked to resign as deputy director of the Secretary of State Police because of an incident while Dowis was with the Springfield police, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said during a State Journal-Register editorial board meeting.


White would not give details of the incident.


“I just got bits and pieces of it, but I made the final decision,” White said.


“There was something that happened with the Springfield Police that we were unaware of at the time (of Dowis’ hiring),” White said. “We chose to let the gentleman go because we do not want repercussions and because we want clean hands and a good government.”


Dowis started work with the Secretary of State Police Sept. 1. His resigned Sept. 10.


 


Allegedly drunk sergeant


Dowis said the incident White was referring to was in March or April 2008 when then-Springfield Police Chief Ralph Caldwell suspended him for 10 days. The suspension was because Dowis did not notify Caldwell quickly enough about the handling of a case involving a sergeant who reportedly showed up drunk to an off-duty job.


Dowis said he was told the sergeant might have driven a squad car while intoxicated. Dowis went to the officer’s home and talked him into going to an out-of-town treatment facility.


Dowis said he drove back to Springfield that night and intended to tell Caldwell about the incident the next day.


“I know the officer personally. … I know he was suffering from some alcoholism issues,” Dowis said. “His world was beginning to crack. I went to the house. I used this incident because he’d broken some department rules -- I used it to leverage him into rehab that day.”


He talked to Caldwell about the situation the next day, Dowis said. Caldwell was angry that Dowis did not tell him immediately about the incident, Dowis said.


“Even though it was a personnel matter, everybody in the police department knows what went on with that incident,” Dowis said. “Had someone asked me about it, I would have shared it because it’s not a secret.


“That’s what we do. You’ve got to take care of your subordinate.”


Caldwell, now director of the Metro Computer-Aided Dispatch Service in Champaign County, declined to comment.


 


Politics involved?


Dowis said the minor nature of the incident has him questioning whether White, a Democrat, learned about Dowis’ political affiliation.


“I’ve been a Republican all my life,” Dowis said. “Perhaps there’s a political element. Part of me thinks that might be on the table. They might have just assumed I’m a Democrat because I was in Mayor Tim Davlin’s administration.”


White said he talked to Davlin about Dowis, but Davlin did not tell White about the incident, White said.


“We had a discussion about him and he just said he was a nice guy, and a good man and he held him in high esteem,” White said. “That’s about the extent of the conversation I had with him.”


Dowis said Davlin always treated him fairly.


“I’ve got no problems at all with Tim Davlin,” Dowis said.


Ernie Slottag, a spokesman for Davlin, declined to comment on what he said was a personnel matter.


 


No questions asked


Asked whether anyone did a background check on Dowis before he was hired, White said, “My chief of staff did the hiring along with the personnel department, and I think the question was asked about some things that may have happened in the office but that the information was not revealed to us. So that’s why we acted the way we did. We didn’t have enough information at the time.”


Dowis said he was not asked about the incident by White’s chief of staff, Thomas Benigno, who talked to Dowis about taking the job after Brad Demuzio, director of the Secretary of State Police, made an initial contact with Dowis.


“They never asked me anything but, ‘Do you want to come work here?’ ” Dowis said.


Dowis was a Springfield police officer for 26 years. He was to be paid $75,000 annually at the secretary of state’s office. He is eligible to collect his pension from the city.


Dowis said he is going to take some time off.


 


Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.