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Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 10:33 pm

Mayor Mike Houston withdraws nomination

Nominee had history of controversy

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has withdrawn his nomination of former police chief Kirk Robinson to serve on the city’s Community Police Review Commission

Robinson resigned as chief of the department in 1993 after allegations of sexual harassment of department employees came to light. Two employees sued, and the city paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to court files and The State Journal-Register, which in a 1999 story set the tab for one employee alone at more than $500,000, with the employee’s lawyer telling a reporter that the total bill could approach $1 million.

Robinson lasted less than a year as chief, but remained on the force until 2001. He could not be reached for comment. Several aldermen say they became aware of Robinson’s past soon after the nomination became public last Tuesday.

Contacted Saturday, Houston said that the nomination would not proceed. He said that he had been aware that Robinson had been removed as police chief, but that he did not know about payouts to employees who sued the city.

“I was aware of the fact that he had problems,” Houston said. “He had indicated an interest in being on the board.”

Houston said he nominated Robinson because of his background and because he could represent the African American community.

The withdrawal of Robinson’s nomination marks the second time since Houston was elected last April that a mayoral nomination to a city post disintegrated after controversy surrounding nominees came to light. Tom Kelty, the mayor’s first choice for corporation counsel, withdrew his name from consideration in May after the media reported about his record in private practice, which included a lawsuit against him that resulted in a $4.75 million payout.

“I’m almost to the point where I would prefer him not making any decisions, because the ones he’s making aren’t working out too well for us,” said Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards.

Other alderman also said they couldn’t support Robinson and could not understand why he was nominated.

“It does concern me a little bit, in terms of what kind of vetting process he has with these types of appointments,” said Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe.

Jobe said that he’s been hearing from concerned constituents.

“I was somewhat surprised that the mayor would ask for him to be appointed,” Jobe said. “I find it concerning, and my constituents do, too, and I’ll not be supporting him.”

Robinson now works for the Transportation Security Administration as a security manager at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, according to a resume posted on the city’s website. In lawsuits filed against him and the city in the early 1990s, a department secretary said that Robinson promised to promote her if she had sex with him. A commander who was at the time the highest-ranking female officer on the force also sued, saying that she had sex with Robinson at work against her will before he became chief to advance her career.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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