Former Huntley Fire Protection District members question former chief Caudle's status

HUNTLEY – Former Fire Chief Ken Caudle continues to earn a salary while the Huntley Fire Protection District conducts an ongoing investigation into something officials won’t talk about.

Several former fire district members spoke out Tuesday.

Huntley Fire Protection District board members did not share any information about Caudle’s status at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Former Deputy Chief Keith Mallegni, who was in attendance, asked whether Caudle was being paid while “sitting at home” and whether there was an investigation ongoing.

Attorney Joe Miller said the board is looking into some matters, and when it is an appropriate time for things to come out, it will be known to the public at that time.

“I’m getting stopped all over town about this,” Mallegni said.

Miller said he would recommend that any curious residents attend a board meeting, to which Mallegni responded, “That is what we’re here for.”

Still, no information was given.

Former Trustee Joseph Mahoney of Algonquin asked whether Caudle still was on the payroll, which Miller would not answer.

Caudle continues to receive a salary of $119,240 while on leave, Acting Chief Scott Ravagnie previously told the Northwest Herald.

Former EMS Director Bill Kresal said he challenges trustees and commissioners to pray for the next chief.

“The new chief should be picked by your heart, not by your gut,” Kresal said. “This person should not be a favored person, a much loved person, but it should be a person that will put our department back on the right road. Getting the crews to be a family again, like it used to be when we were on. Getting the respect of outside departments that we have totally lost.”

Caudle submitted a letter of resignation as chief to the board Aug. 11. He returned to his last commissioned rank of battalion chief and was placed on paid administrative leave “pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation,” according to Huntley Fire Protection District documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Officials have not said what they are investigating.

“How long is this process going to take? Because the way I understand it is they are trying to wait for the next two years so he gets his 20-year pension,” Mallegni said.

Former Battalion Chief Russ Wilson of Huntley asked about a rumor he heard.

“You’ve heard a lot of things, the board has heard a lot of things, and we’re looking into everything,” Miller said. “I don’t even know if what you are saying is true or not.”

Miller advised the board to not speak about any current or former employees.

Trustees met in closed session where Miller gave updates. That part of the meeting wasn’t open to the public.

In Caudle’s letter of resignation, he wrote that after a long discussion with his family, he set a retirement date for Nov. 10, 2019. Caudle’s current contract expires April 30, 2020.

“I assure you that my decision did not come lightly, especially since my tenure as chief with the district has been both fulfilling and rewarding,” he wrote in the letter. “It has been my greatest honor to serve as fire chief to the community, the members and the board.”

The next scheduled meeting is
Nov. 28.

Caudle has been with the district since 1998 and served as chief for five years.

The Huntley Police Department is not involved in any investigation regarding Caudle or the fire department, Huntley Deputy Police Chief Mike Klunk said Aug. 29.

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