Frankfort fire battalion chief to lose license
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com January 8, 2012 7:26PM
Updated: February 10, 2012 8:25AM
Frankfort Fire Battalion Chief Paul Kelch will have his driver’s license suspended at the end of January for having too many moving violations, according to the Illinois secretary of state’s office.
Kelch has a Jan. 24 court date in Will County to answer to a host of traffic violations, including leaving the scene of a property damage crash last fall. The six-month suspension of his license — which begins Jan. 29 — is for having three moving violations within a year, SOS spokeswoman Beth Kaufman said.
Frankfort Fire District attorney Tom Gilbert said the district’s policy requires all employees to have a valid driver’s license.
Kelch declined to comment and referred all questions to his attorney, Ted Hammel, who also refused to comment.
After a two-vehicle crash at 9:45 p.m. on Sept. 9 at U.S. 6 and Cedar Road in New Lenox Township, state police charged Kelch, 36, of Joliet, with leaving the scene of an accident, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, following too closely, operating an uninsured vehicle, failure to give aid/information, and failure to notify the secretary of state of an address change, police said.
The other driver told police she was stopped at a red light when a Ford pickup truck rear-ended her Honda. She exited her car and spoke to the driver of the pickup truck — later identified as Kelch — who said he would pull over and exchange information but fled the scene instead. She was able to give police a license plate number, which they traced to Kelch’s Joliet residence.
Police found his truck with front-end damage, and with the Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device disconnected, police records show. This device requires drivers to provide a breath sample before the vehicle can be started, and at random intervals to provide additional breath samples while the vehicle is being driven.
According to police, when a search warrant was executed on his impounded 2006 Ford pickup truck in October, police found one opened and three sealed cans of Miller Lite beer on the rear passenger floor board and they confiscated the BAIID for analysis. The truck had been towed to Collision Revision in Joliet as part of the hit-and-run investigation. When police arrived to search it on Oct. 19, they discovered that a rock had been thrown through the rear window of the truck during the night. The outer chain fence of the parking lot also had been cut, but Kelch’s truck was the only vehicle damaged, according to police reports.
According to state police, Kelch was required to have the BAIID because of a previous incident in November 2010 when Manhattan police charged him with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident. In that incident, Kelch was found not guilty of drunken driving but was issued a driving permit if he agreed to use the BAIID. He was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident and failure to reduce speed after rear-ending a vehicle at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at Front and State streets.
Kelch told police he then left the scene because he had to pick up kids from St. Joseph School but planned to return to the scene. According to police reports, Kelch told police he had four or five beers a couple of hours before the crash. Police said they found three cans of Miller Lite beer on the floor behind the driver’s seat of his Ford pickup truck.
Susan McKinney, administrator of Illinois’ BAIID program, said it is a felony to disconnect the devices, which require the driver to have a blood alcohol content of .025 or less to start the vehicle. First-time DUI offenders are eligible for the supervised program that allows them to have a driving permit for unrestricted driving, she said.
According to court records, Kelch has a long history of traffic violations, mostly speeding tickets from local municipalities, for which he was fined or given court supervision, beginning when he was 16 years old.