Don't believe everything you hear or read. Before you post, share or point fingers, get the facts from a credible source.
If you’ve heard or read about something involving the City of Elgin, this webpage may help you in determining whether that information is accurate.
Misinformation has a tendency to spread rapidly in a community by word of mouth and other channels, but especially through social media. And while it may not necessarily be anyone’s intent to be spreading misinformation, it’s always good practice to check whether some information about the City of Elgin that seems questionable is accurate.
The purpose of this webpage is to help keep inaccurate information from spreading in the community. This webpage will not be addressing opinions or every rumor that may be circulated. Rather, this webpage will be responding to clear instances of inaccurate information that mischaracterizes policy or is harmful to the City's image and reputation. This webpage will help ensure the City of Elgin truly remains the trusted source for accurate information about the City organization and community. Page updates will be made on an as-needed basis.
As the City of Elgin strives to be a high performing, financially stable government, this webpage is one more way for the City to promote transparency, accountability and communication to provide the community with opportunities to engage and be informed.
Below are some recent examples of misinformation about the City that have spread in the Elgin community, and the associated facts.
Red Poppy Bistro Allegations of Improper Code Enforcement.
The Elgin Courier-News published an article on September 22 about the closing of a Downtown Elgin restaurant. The article reported on the restaurant proprietor’s claims of problems with city “government policies and ordinances.”
The Elgin Courier-News did not seek comment from the city before publishing the article. If the city had been contacted by the newspaper, it would have conveyed the following information.
Matt Habib, proprietor of the Red Poppy Bistro in the Downtown, posted to Facebook on September 20, announcing the immediate closing of his restaurant as he “can no longer function under current Elgin Government policies and ordinances.”
Mr. Habib appears to be responding to what staff believes is an ongoing effort to help him lawfully operate his food truck. The parking lot in which his food truck is located is intended for the benefit of the building in which he was also leasing space for the restaurant.
The city received an anonymous complaint in June alleging that Mr. Habib was unlawfully operating his food truck at nights and on weekends from a parking lot. The city investigated and Mr. Habib was told to immediately stop serving food from the truck because it did not have proper sanitation facilities for enabling food preparers to wash their hands.
Mr. Habib was also storing a refrigerator, freezer, smoker, food prep table, rolls of Astroturf, buckets, a damaged chair and a spare tire in the parking lot. The refrigerator and freezer were elevated on wood pallets and plugged into an outlet on the exterior of the building. The refrigerator’s unsecured electrical connections fail to provide a reasonable guarantee the refrigeration equipment will continually operate, putting any perishable items that may be stored in the refrigerator for sale to the public at risk for contamination.
Mr. Habib was told he could continue using the refrigerator in the parking lot if it was hardwired to the building, screened and protected. Mr. Habib applied for a building permit to properly wire the refrigerator, but that application lacked the specificity necessary for the permit to be issued. The city emailed Mr. Habib asking for the additional information necessary to issue the permit.
The city also advised Mr. Habib that while he could continue parking the food truck in the parking lot, the food truck can only be used to provide food service after he provided the necessary hand washing sink and obtained a temporary use permit for its operation.
Elgin’s zoning ordinance requires that business be conducted from within a building except where a temporary use permit is issued. The city authorizes certain businesses operations to be conducted in a parking lot, but not permanently. A business can have four permits per year, and each permit can last 15 days. Granting the temporary use permit is a ministerial determination once the applicant demonstrates compliance with the zoning ordinance’s provisions. A typical example of an authorized temporary use permit is the Jewel grocery stores’ annual establishment of a greenhouse and other plant sales in their parking lots during the summer months.
Mr. Habib applied for a temporary use permit but chose not to provide the additional information necessary for the city to approve that permit. Mr. Habib wrote to the city on June 29 stating “there are far beneficial [sic] alternatives” and he did “not want to create any extra exertion for any party involved.”
The food truck’s deficient sanitary condition and the unkempt parking lot area prompted the city’s health department to advance its routine inspection of Red Poppy. Several risk factors were found inside the Red Poppy restaurant on June 17 that have since been corrected.
No citations were issued regarding any of these items.
Before Mr. Habib opened Red Poppy, he operated Legit Dogs and Ice from the basement of the Dream Hall at 51 S. Grove Avenue for about a year-and-a-half. The city in March 2019 approved a conditional use permit allowing Legit Dogs and Ice to continue hosting live music events at that location. City staff not only assisted Mr. Habib in completing his conditional use application by taking night-time noise readings at the location, but also in absorbing the nearly $6,000 in costs for the third-party sound study conducted by a professional sound engineer that was necessary to demonstrate Mr. Habib’s business was in compliance with the city’s noise ordinance. Professional consulting costs are normally borne by the conditional use applicant.
It is regretful that Mr. Habib is choosing to discontinue his business operation despite the city’s repeated efforts to assist him in bringing his restaurants into compliance with the regulations all other food service businesses in the city routinely follow.
FALSE: The City of Elgin declared December City Council meetings would be held remotely.
TRUE: Elgin board and commission meetings are being conducted virtually through the end of January. The action does not apply to city council meetings, but council members continue to have the ability to attend virtually in the interest of safety.
A December 7 article posted to thefirstward.net says, “The day after the City of Elgin declared December City Council meetings would be held remotely out of an abundance of omicron variant caution…” This information is incorrect. Board and commission meetings are being conducted virtually through the end of January. The action does not apply to city council meetings, but council members continue to have the ability to attend virtually in the interest of safety.
FALSE: The City is shutting off water to families that have fallen behind in paying their water bills during the pandemic
TRUE: The City is not shutting off water service for inability to pay
Political campaign material is circulating stating that the City is shutting off water to families that have fallen behind in paying their water bills during the pandemic. This is false information. The City approved a grant program to help those behind on their water bills and water service will not be shut off to any households where inability to make any payment can be shown. Information on the City’s grant program is reported in the Courier-News here https://bit.ly/3sIic3o and in the Daily Herald here https://bit.ly/3ubeHmm. For more information and updates on the City’s grant program, visit cityofelgin.org/billassistance.
Last updated: March 2, 2021
TRUE: Firefighter Union Insists on Keeping Raises in 2021
The City of Elgin had been asking its firefighters for equity during a time when all City employees and the community are dealing with impacts of the pandemic. The City asked its firefighters to simply do what nearly every other City employee is doing for one year⏤not take a modest 2.5% cost of living raise. If they agreed, there would have been no need to consider any unplanned cost reductions and they would get their raise next year. The firefighter union was expressly advised of plans to forego raises citywide in March 2020. Insisting on taking the raise costs Elgin taxpayers $430,000 in 2021 and $1.3 million over the three-year financial plan, a cost that now needs to be reduced in operations, because increased revenues from residents and businesses should only be an option of last resort.
FALSE: Drastic Service Reductions Have Been Approved for Station 6
On February 8, 2021, a Facebook post by the Elgin Association of Firefighters Local 439 suggested drastic service reductions had been approved for Fire Station 6, which was not true.
- The only reason service changes to Station 6 were being discussed is because the fire union had declined to defer raises in 2021, like all other City departments (see above).
- The City is not closing Station 6 or permanently retiring a piece of equipment.
- The change to the service model replaces the engine at Station 6 with an ambulance on days in which overtime staffing is necessary.
- Station 6 did not previously have an ambulance in regular service, and instead used a fire engine to respond to ambulance calls.
- Ambulance calls comprise the overwhelming majority of Station 6's activity in a given year.
- Station 6, the City's most centrally located station, is supported with fire fighting apparatus coverage from the surrounding six other stations in Elgin.
Addressing Comments from Facebook and Emails
The fire department staffing has never gone below the authorized minimal staffing levels established by city ordinance. The same cannot be said for the police department, which has been working below its authorized strength for almost 14 years, or other city departments that have seen substantial staffing reductions during the past ten or more years. No firefighter has been laid off during the past 25 years or more.
This is a situation that occurs multiple times every day under the current staffing model. Ambulances respond on many calls alone and in those instances are only responding with two personnel.
Station 6 is not the busiest station. Station 1, 2, 4 and 5 saw more calls for service than Station 6 in 2020. The overwhelming majority of Engine 6's calls are for ambulance service in an area including the Downtown. Replacing an engine with an ambulance provides a more effective piece of equipment to address the emergency medical calls because ambulances can transport patients; fire engines cannot. Station 6, the City's most centrally located station, is supported with fire fighting apparatus coverage from the surrounding six other stations in Elgin.
The Insurance Service's Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification Program ratings are derived from complex formulas and a variety of variables. One operational change is unlikely to bring about a full reduction in the Department's ISO rating. The factors reviewed during an ISO review related to the Fire Department specifically account for 50 percent of the overall rating, with engine companies accounting for only a portion within that category. Other factors including water supply, availability and emergency communications make up the other 50 percent of factors reviewed when determining a community risk rating.
Elgin boasts a 49-year low crime rate. In addition, the Elgin Fire Department operates with proper staffing levels and industry standard response times. The proposed change will keep responses to calls for service within industry recommended response times.
Staff does not anticipate any significant issue obtaining a water supply for a fire in District 6. District 6 is covered by the other Districts and will not wait for water any longer than what is experienced today.
Most fire stations minimally have a fire engine and an ambulance. Fire Station 6 operates with only one piece of equipment, an engine. Station 6, unlike other stations, does not have the ability to send different equipment depending on the type of call and so engine six is heavily used. However, the overwhelming majority of Engine 6's calls are for ambulance service in an area including the Downtown. Replacing an engine with an ambulance provides a more effective piece of equipment because ambulances can transport patients; fire engines cannot. Station 6, the City's most centrally located station, is supported with fire fighting apparatus coverage from the surrounding six other stations in Elgin.
No, the two positions created in the 2021 Budget are being funded through a combination of savings from unfilled positions within city administration and employee cost reduction measures taken in 2020 and 2021. The cost reductions realized from the adjustments at Station 6 occur because an ambulance requires a two-person crew while the fire engine requires three. Station 6, the City's most centrally located station, is supported with fire fighting apparatus coverage from the surrounding six other stations in Elgin.
The City Manager and department directors were subject to the 10 percent reduction in pay, all other management employees received a 5 percent reduction in pay. The City Manager's compensation and contract can be found at cityofelgin.org/transparency. In 2020, the City Manager was compensated at a total of $228,043. Two firefighters were compensated higher than the City Manager in 2020, at $245,000 and $231,000 respectively. In fact, of the 50 highest paid employees in 2020, 22 of them were firefighters all making more than $150,000.
On August 15, 2020, information was posted on a social media site alleging that Elgin police officers were “harassing people” and that officers were advising people “they had to show them that the liquid containers they were drinking were non-alcoholic” in downtown Elgin.
Elgin police officers were dispatched to the downtown location after receiving a 911 complaint of subjects harassing customers who were leaving a downtown business. Upon speaking with the group about the complaint, it was observed that one individual had an alcoholic beverage poured into a restaurant cup. One officer, using his discretion, offered the gentlemen a choice to either pour out his alcoholic beverage or be cited in accordance with City ordinances. The gentlemen elected to pour out his drink and no citations were issued during this encounter. All parties then chose to leave the area and the officers cleared the location.
Public comments were made at the July 29 city council meeting about incidents involving Elgin police officers that are not entirely accurate. Chief Lalley addresses those comments to provide clarity below:
I want to stress that the purpose of addressing these matters is not intended to discount the concerns brought forward. Rather, I believe it is important to ensure accurate information is being provided regarding these incidents and that my clarification is being provided to enable people to form opinions based on all the facts. I also want to clarify that the incidents mentioned during the public comment occurred before I became the Chief of Police. With the exception of the matter involving Lieutenant Jensen, I was not the final decision maker in the incidents mentioned.
My decision to reinstate Lieutenant Jensen to an administrative position in the police department was made in consultation with both the Legal Department and City Manager and is documented in an in-depth report that remains available to the public for review. I have always recognized that while my decision would bring closure for some, for others it would not. During the two years, the police department has not sat idle, we have evolved in our practices and we will continue to do so.
I realize that I carry the history of Elgin Police Department as its Chief and some past incidents continue generating concern for some in our community. But the incidents that have occurred in the past are not an indication of what the future will be. Dismissing the possibility of a better future—or the hope for a better future—is not a belief to which I subscribe. Working with our community and the officers striving for a better tomorrow, I will continue pushing the department forward with the hope these past incidents do not over-shadow the progress the department has made and is continually making ...
I, and the police department, genuinely appreciate the support shown by the community along with the voices of those who have been involved with the peaceful protests and speaking at city council meetings. I believe it is through all these voices that the police department will continue to challenge itself and constantly work to be better. During the past several city council meetings, I have provided information on programs, policies, and initiatives the department currently has in place relating to the national conversation on police reform. I also provided information on the new initiatives being brought forward by the department. I want to stress that as we continue to be leaders in our profession, we also adhere to the philosophy that we can always be better, have more work to do, and are always willing to listen to criticism so that we continue to improve and move the department forward.
I believe the decisions made by prior police chiefs in the mentioned incidents had the best interest of the community and the department at the forefront. While I understand that the outcome of these incidents may not be acceptable to all, my hope is that in 5, 10, or 20 years from now, conversations about the police department will be focusing on what the department— working with their community—has accomplished. This hope may then provide the comfort needed for some.
The incidents mentioned for which I wish to provide clarification involve Officer Steve Jones who passed away in 2017, Sergeant Gary Neal who retired in 2015, Officer Bill Wood who retired in 2017.
The statement was made that Officer Jones was fired for bringing forward a complaint of racial discrimination is untrue. Officer Jones was terminated for unrelated policy violations but was later reinstated. I would also be remiss to not mention that Officer Jones was a respected officer who impacted the lives of many in his position, including myself and students and staff at Kimball Middle School. Although it is difficult to talk about an officer who is no longer with us, I think it is important to clarify what actually occurred so that his legacy is not tarnished.
It was stated that “African American Sergeant Gary Neal, according to the lawsuit, Sergeant Neal wrote a memorandum to Officer James Barnes of internal affairs Barnes took no action with the complaint.” This statement may be referring to an investigation in which another member of the department brought forward a complaint, not Sergeant Neal, and this incident was in fact thoroughly investigated by the City.
A statement was made that retired Officer Bill Wood was only punished with two years of probation along with paying back the police union the money he stole. I want to stress that this incident was brought forward by the police union itself, asking that one of its members be investigated and held accountable. Once notified of the charges, Wood retired, prevent-ing an internal investigation from being conducted. A criminal investigation, however, was still initiated. The punishment Wood received is not determined by the police department. In this instance, the Kane County States Attorney’s office made the final determination. As a matter of practice, restitution—or requiring the stolen money to be paid back—is common practice.
Lastly, a statement was made that “the advancement of racial relationships that Lalley claims to uphold is a false narrative.” That is simply not true. I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement and while I understand this is one’s perception or feeling, it has not only been my words, but my actions over the past two years that should be examined. Whether it was community conversations, listening sessions, the formation of a group of officers who just recently participated in a roundtable discussion on race, these are the actions that I believe show my commitment to the betterment of these relationships. These types of actions do not come without criticisms, but I am committed to moving the department forward and will continue to hope that these actions will change the perception of a false narrative.
The statement was also made that “Elgin has yet to see a case of an Elgin Police Officer for being truly held accountable for their unlawful actions.” In the past 15 years there have been several officers that have been held accountable either by termination of their of employment and/or criminal charges being brought forward. Although I am aware that the level of accountability may be less that what some may want, the fact remains that these officers were ultimately held accountable. And in many instances, it was the police department who brought forth the misconduct and initiated the investigation.
For the past two years it has been my commitment to both the department and the community to continue to work together, to continue building relationships, and continue our commitment to be a department that embraces criticism and is not afraid to change. I am keenly aware that change causes uncertainty and uncomfortableness. My hope is that the members of the police department who have no connection to the mentioned incidents will not be judged by the actions of others, but by their own. Although the disheartening actions of others ultimately reflect upon us, whether here in Elgin or across the country, they should not overshadow our continued commitment to professionalism.
I encourage any community member to contact me to ask questions, talk, or express their concerns. Specifically if there are any incidents that need further clarification I encourage you to contact me.
On August 4, word spread across Facebook groups that there was a stabbing in Carleton Rogers Park.
Officers responded to a report of a possible stabbing in Carleton Rogers Park. Upon arrival, they found there was no stabbing incident but rather that an individual had a minor, self-inflicted injury.
The misinformation spread across several public Facebook groups after being shared from a Facebook page, "Northern Illinois Scanner Incidents." That page's “About” section describes it as "Norther Illinois Scanner Incidents is ran by 3 individuals who spend most of their day reporting incidents for this page."
This page is not an official or trusted source of City of Elgin information. The call on the scanner provided wrong information, which prompted the response of fire and police. The scanner incident page does not followup or seek facts of the situation, and therefore its posts should not be shared without first confirming facts of the situation with the City of Elgin. This type of misinformation can hurt Elgin's reputation and instill unnecessary fear in the community.