URBANA – The 2021 Champaign County Consolidated Primary Election is just around the corner. Former Urbana City Council member, Esther Patt, is resorting to damaging campaign tactics in order to control the political landscape of Urbana.
Patt used her connections within the City to obtain confidential information about police complaints made to the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB). She publicly disclosed the information in an attempt to damage the reputation of a newcomer candidate, who is running in opposition to her candidate of choice, Chris Evans.
Patt released the confidential police complaints information in an email to the 500-member West Urbana Neighborhood listserv and ridiculed the newcomer candidate for filing police complaints.
The CPRB and police complaint process has already been under scrutiny due to the state of dysfunction of the board over the past couple of years. Among the failures of the board were their infrequent meetings compounded by meeting cancellations, absences of board members/city staff, board members not having access to submitted complaints, gate-keeping by City staff, complaints being denied by City staff, and failure of the board to follow mandates of their own ordinance.
At board meetings and City Council meetings, residents voiced concerns about the small number of complaint appeals that the board had received since its inception in 2008. Residents cited the public’s lack of trust in the complaint and appeals process, fear of retaliation by the police after submitting a complaint, and lack of meaningful outcomes as reasons for their reluctance to submit and appeal complaints.
After these issues were brought to light, CPRB members have been making efforts to engage the public and address the shortcomings of the board.
Esther Patt’s attempt to harm the newcomer candidate’s campaign and influence the election in favor of her preferred candidate has effectively undone all the efforts of the CPRB to regain the trust of the public.
The CPRB ordinance mandates that board members maintain absolute confidentiality with respect to confidential or privileged information. The ordinance also prohibits any harassment, retaliation, or retribution for filing a complaint.
How can the public trust the police complaint and appeal process when Esther Patt has just shown that anyone with the right connections can conspire to obtain confidential information that can be used against the complainant?