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Thursday, July 21, 2005 11:42 pm

Last word

Michael Campion, the psychologist who has screened Springfield police and firefighter candidates for more than a decade, claims that he lost his contract because of his political and religious views.

In a three-page letter sent to aldermen, Campion said that he had chosen not to sue the city, even though an attorney he consulted assured him “that I have a strong case for litigation.” Instead, he simply asked aldermen to review the contract process “so that others will not be treated as unfairly as I believe I was.”

City Council coordinator Joe Davis says that, to his knowledge, no alderman has responded to Campion’s June 29 complaint. Campion didn’t return e-mail and phone messages from Illinois Times seeking comment.

In a commentary published about a year ago, IT revealed that Campion has served on the board of the Illinois Family Institute since 1999. IFI is a conservative nonprofit organization promoting religious freedom and rallying its members against abortion, stem-cell research, gambling, pornography, civil-rights protections for gays and lesbians, and needle exchanges for drug addicts.

In his letter to aldermen, Campion cited (and misquoted) a May 19 IT news article as evidence that religious beliefs were the reason his contract was not renewed. In that article, Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards, a former Springfield Fire Department chief, stated that his personal review of Campion’s evaluations left him puzzled. “The people I thought would’ve been squashed, he passed. I’m just a novice reading this, but if a guy had a beer, he was out,” Edwards said.

In that same article, Ward 2 Ald. Frank McNeil supported Campion’s right to hold conservative views but said that those views shouldn’t be used to measure police and fire candidates.

“I think a number of recruits may have been unfairly excluded because of his subjective review,” McNeil said.

Campion also complained that the council gave the new contract to St. Louis psychologist Dr. Paul Detrick, who “works primarily in the schools as a school psychologist.” However, city officials say that Detrick was chosen largely because of his track record screening recruits for St. Louis-area police departments.

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