Convicted ex-water official resigns as Crestwood police chief
Days after being convicted for lying to state regulators about a scheme to tap into a contaminated well to supplement the village’s water supply, Crestwood Police Chief Theresa Neubauer lost her job Thursday night.
Neubauer submitted her resignation letter Thursday to Crestwood officials, claiming she “faithfully served,” the village. Officials approved her resignation during the village board meeting Thursday night.
Mayor Lou Presta previously said the village stopped paying Neubauer and ordered her to resign Monday after she was convicted of 11 felony counts of lying to state regulators while head of the village water department.
“Those that knew me best know that as a police officer and later a police chief, I have put myself into harms way for the citizens of Crestwood,” wrote Neubauer, who was on paid leave since being indicted on federal charges in April 2011.
She didn’t address her felony conviction and instead wrote that she was resigning “in light of recent developments.”
“I do so for the good of the community that I love so dearly,” Neubauer said.
Outgoing Mayor Robert Stranczek read Neubauer’s letter, which the village board unanimously approved. Presta, formerly a trustee, was then sworn in as the new mayor.
Trustee John Toscas, who lost a mayoral election to Presta, was absent from the meeting.
Neubauer, 55, and former water operator Frank Scaccia were charged for their roles in a cover-up regarding Crestwood’s use of tainted well water in its drinking supply for 22 years until 2007. Scaccia, 61, who stopped working for the village in 2008, pleaded guilty April 11 to one count of providing false statements.
Presta refused to say Thursday why the board let her resign instead of firing her in light of her felony convictions.
“What’s the difference?” Presta said.
Presta previously said the village will attempt to recoup the roughly $350,000 it spent on the legal defense of Neubauer and Scaccia once they are sentenced and if they lose their appeals.
He declined to talk about the water scandal, citing pending lawsuits against Crestwood.
Federal prosecutors alleged during Neubauer’s trial that former Mayor Chester Stranczek and other village officials along with Neubauer and Scaccia schemed to tap into the contaminated well after the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency ordered the village to shut it down. Stranczek, 82, who has Parkinson’s disease and lives in Florida, was not charged in the case.
Crestwood faces more than 100 lawsuits filed by 250 current and former residents who claim they developed cancer, tumors, immune system disorders and other serious health problems from drinking the water for so many years.
The village also has been sued by the Illinois attorney general’s office, a case that’s expected to move more quickly now that Neubauer’s trial has ended.
Resident Jim Jurewicz, who lost a trustee election in April, said the lawsuits concerned him.
“After this is all said and done, someone has to address all the legal fees, all the lawsuits,” Jurewicz said. “A lot of people thought this would be all pixie dust and fairy tales.”