By Bob Uphues
The executive board of West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3), the agency that handles fire and police dispatching for the villages of Brookfield, Riverside, North Riverside and McCook, is looking for a new executive director after parting ways with the man who has been at the helm since January 2017.
On Jan. 6 the executive board, which includes the village managers of Brookfield and Riverside and North Riverside's village administrator, voted unanimously to accept a resignation agreement for WC3 Executive Director Jason Rodgers.
According to the agreement, Rodgers will remain on paid administrative leave through March 31, during which time no other benefits will accrue. At the time of his permanent separation on March 31, Rodgers will also receive a lump sum payment of $3,789, representing 72.58 hours of unused vacation time as of Nov. 30, 2020.
Rodgers, whose annual salary is $108,605, has been on paid leave since Dec. 1. The circumstances surrounding his removal from the job remain unclear.
As executive director, Rodgers oversaw the operations of the agency, which has a budget of nearly $1.8 million and is funded by equal contributions from its three permanent members and annual fees paid by McCook. In 2021, McCook's annual service fee is $163,909.
The agency is headquartered at the North Riverside Police Department, where there's also a central lockup for processing prisoners arrested by police officers of the member villages.
On Jan. 6, the executive board also extended WC3's agreement with McCook for three more years, increasing that village's annual contribution by 3, 3 and 2 percent in each of those years.
Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg, who took over as the chairman of the WC3 executive board on Jan. 1, declined to say what prompted the move. Rodgers did not return a voicemail message from the Landmark left on his cellphone.
The executive board has appointed former Brookfield Police Chief James Episcopo as the acting executive director for WC3 while the board searches for as permanent replacement. He is being paid $65 an hour for his services.
Episcopo, who was police chief in Brookfield when WC3 was created, will work no more than 30 hours per week as acting director. He has worked full time since retiring as police chief in 2019 as regional planning coordinator for the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS), a police mutual aid network comprising suburban communities throughout northeast Illinois.
"Jim has been tasked with carrying on the services of the agency," said Wiberg. "We thought he was a very logical choice, since he was involved with the formation of the agency."
One matter that has landed in Episcopo's lap is ongoing union contract negotiations between the agency and its dispatchers. Many of those employees were brought on board from different police agencies which paid their dispatchers at different rates. They have received no pay raises and continue to make different amounts since being folded into WC3 in spring 2018. WC3 employs 11 full-time and four part-time dispatchers.
The executive board in December hired the firm GovHR at a cost of $19,000 to conduct a search for a new executive director for WC3. That same firm conducted the search in 2016 that identified Rodgers, who was a communications supervisor for DuPage Public Safety Communications, a dispatch agency for more than 40 police and fire agencies.
WC3's outgoing executive board chairwoman, Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances, told her colleagues on Jan. 6 that the GovHR recruiter leading the search for an executive director will be meeting soon individually with stakeholders in each village and probably would also be talking to the agency's team of dispatchers.
While the executive board typically meets quarterly, it will schedule meetings monthly during this transition period.