In a Jan. 14 press release, the city of O’Fallon announced the City Council’s ratification of Mayor Bill Hennessy’s appointment of Philip G. Dupuis as the Police Chief for the O’Fallon Police Department. Dupuis had served as Interim Police Chief of the department since October.
“We have been fortunate to see how Chief Dupuis has led the O’Fallon Police Department over the past three months and hear his vision for the future of the department,” Mayor Bill Hennessy said. “Chief Dupuis has shown himself to be a tremendous leader, who is dedicated to the men and women of the O’Fallon Police Department.
“I am confident that he, along with our talented group of officers and civilians, will continue to exceed the high standards our department has set for service, public safety and overall excellence in police work.”
For his part, Dupuis said, “I am truly honored to have this opportunity to work with this talented group of officers to protect and serve the great city of O’Fallon. I appreciate Mayor Hennessy and the City Council for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to becoming a permanent part of this wonderful community.”
Approximately 30 O’Fallon Police officers in civilian clothes were in the audience when the ratification was completed; they all applauded loudly and cheered. However, the ratification and appointment were unusual and not without controversy.
Not everyone agreed
The vote to ratify the mayor’s appointment was by voice only, with no spoken votes against. “Hearing no objection,” the mayor declared that the motion passed. But three council members had voted against the ratification just seven days earlier.
In a closed executive session of the council on Jan. 7, council members Debbie Cook [Ward 5], Katie Gatewood [Ward 5] and Deana Smith [Ward 1] voted against ratification. Mid Rivers Newsmagazine obtained a copy of the non-privileged, council vote segment, using provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and Missouri Sunshine Laws. That record showed a vote of 7 to 3 to ratify Hennessy’s appointment of Dupuis.
Immediately before to the voice vote on Jan. 14, four council members provided comments.
Council member Gatewood said, “Concerns were brought to me by fellow police officers that I believe we should have taken time to vet and prove them false and inaccurate.
“Setting that aside, we sat here on this dais in December and I volunteered to be part of the committee to bring the residents of the city of O’Fallon into the process for hiring a new chief, giving them a voice through a survey, panel discussions, an interview of the candidates and a town hall meeting. I want everyone here to know that I sat with the chief today for about an hour and a half. He heard from me the reasons why I am voting the way I am voting.”
Council member Smith said, “While I have great respect for the members up here who graciously serve our residents, there will be times where we do not agree and that is OK. I am opposed to the placing of a permanent chief without a properly vetted, fair and expanded process. Sometimes, doing the right thing is hard and unpopular.
“As a city of almost 100,000 residents, it is imperative that we make sound business decisions to protect the interests of all O’Fallon residents.”
Smith then touched on what some feel was a deciding factor in DuPuis’ appointment.
“In my opinion, hiring through an appointment due to the loss of liability [insurance] by our vendor could give the appearance of impropriety and poor decision making,” Smith said. “From a law enforcement standpoint, things have dramatically changed and will continue to change into the future. It has become ever-increasingly important to include and partner with the community. With that in mind, we created a city council subcommittee at the last council meeting to develop an expanded process to identify the new police chief. That process would have included valuable feedback and involvement from the community.
“This subcommittee was willing to put in the hard work to find the right and most fitting police chief for the residents of O’Fallon. It should be incredibly disappointing to the O’Fallon residents that due to this appointment, your voices now have been silenced.
“Our goal was to cast a wide net to capture a diverse pool of candidates that would exhibit the values and principles reflected by our community. Chief Dupuis may have risen to the top of that candidate pool; however, we will never know. This diverse pool also would have yielded an opportunity for the community to consider qualified female and minority candidates to represent the evolving diversity of our community.”
Council member Cook said, “I, too, have several issues tonight about the vote to ratify the mayor’s appointment. I don’t feel like we are being very transparent in our selection process.
“Like the others said, we sat here at a council meeting and discussed putting together a survey so residents could have some input regarding what is desired for an O’Fallon Police chief. We talked about organizing a citizens’ police committee. This was just to be more transparent and give our residents a voice to speak about what is important to them.
“Lastly, we didn’t go through a hiring process to screen potential candidates in the St. Louis area, or even within our own department. I feel like we’re setting ourselves up for another potential lawsuit, which we all know we’ve got plenty of those coming out of the police department, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Cook said she has nothing against DuPuis personally.
‘You may be a great candidate, and obviously, by the support you have here tonight, everyone likes you,” Cook said. “And you could be the right one. But I just feel like, with our having so many issues regarding this, my vote tonight will not be in support of it.”
Council member Jeff Kuehn [Ward 4], who voted in favor of the ratification, said he had the chance to speak to six officers, including a couple of sergeants regarding Chief Dupuis and his performance thus far.
‘I found that I got six people who gave very satisfactory responses,” Kuehn said. “I also sat down with Chief Dupuis for about an hour and a half.
“This is not the process that we originally had set out, for sure, but circumstances led us to a situation where Chief Dupuis would no longer be able to serve as an interim chief, and, frankly, I think he has the chops to bring stability to the police force here in O’Fallon. I think if you poll the people in the city of O’Fallon, what they want is a chief who can lead this department, can set us up for success in the future, can set us up for promotions from within, and set us up for a strong department from a strong leader. And that’s why I’m voting the way I’m voting tonight.”
Asked about the number of candidates and interviews conducted for the police chief position, and the reason for proceeding with this hiring, O’Fallon Communications Director Tom Drabelle said, “There were no other candidates and no interviews. The mayor had based his recommended appointment of Interim Chief Dupuis’ on the chief’s job performance for the past three months.”
The issue of liability insurance
The city provided no information about the liability insurance issue alluded to by Smith and which has been named by some as the reason for cutting off the search and vetting process.
Strategic Government Resources (SGR) is the third-party company being paid by the city for Dupuis’ services. Mid Rivers Newsmagazine contacted SGR about the liability insurance issue.
Wendle Medford, SGR’s senior managing director of Interim Services & Consulting, confirmed that SGR’s insurance broker had informed them their liability coverage for police in the state of Missouri would not be renewed as of Jan. 18, 2021. Medford said he was told “this was because of the legal environment in Missouri and because of the general animus against police nationwide.”
“Missouri is the only state for which liability coverage for police was being discontinued by the insurance companies they worked with,” Medford said. “While we are continuing to work actively and aggressively to find alternative coverage, this would leave Dupuis without coverage as of Jan. 18. SGR had to leave it to O’Fallon to decide how to proceed.”
It appears O’Fallon had four basic choices:
- Find alternative liability coverage in Missouri for the interim chief.
- Do without an interim chief for several months until the search process is completed.
- Hire Dupuis as a full-time interim chief with a term only to last until the regular chief is appointed.
- Hire Dupuis as police chief [city employee] immediately to bring him under the city’s liability coverage.
The city chose the option four.
Dupuis now takes over a department from which former long-time chief Roy Joachimstaler retired Dec. 7, 2018; followed by interim chief Gary George from Dec. 2018 to May 2019; followed by chief Tim Clothier from May 2019 until his resignation with some controversy on Sept. 23, 2020 [16 months]; followed by Dupuis as interim chief from Oct. 1 until being appointed full-time chief on Jan. 14, 2021.
The O’Fallon Police Department has had four different leaders in the 23 months from December 2018 to October 2020.
In addition, Dupuis takes over a department that has an active defamation and discrimination lawsuit filed by a police major and a captain against former chief Joachimstaler, the city, mayor
Police Maj. Kyle Kelley and Capt. Jeffrey Gray currently
The Jan. 14 O’Fallon press release clarified that Dupuis has an extensive background with more than 36 years of experience in police work, including nine years as a police chief. His career began in Panorama Village, Texas, where he started as a 19-year-old officer. He soon moved to the Conroe, Texas, Police Department where he served for 33 years.
In 2009, Dupuis was named chief of the Conroe department. In this role, he supervised a department of 142 officers with a $19 million budget.
Throughout his career, Dupuis held positions as a patrol officer, investigator
He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, FBI National Academy Association and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.