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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 12:47 pm

Is state police chief on the way out?

Quinn didn’t like Trent’s 2004 gag order

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks during a press conference Jan. 30.
Michael Tercha/MCT

The installment of Pat Quinn as governor may give new meaning to the old phrase “changing of the guard.” For starters, Quinn prefers the minimalist approach to security — as opposed to impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich, whose frolicking 40-member Executive Protection Unit earned him some unwelcome media scrutiny. But there may be bigger changes ahead. Several sources associated with Illinois State Police also say that Quinn plans to replace current ISP director Larry Trent.

An ISP spokesman said Trent wasn’t available to comment and also said he wasn’t aware of any plans to change leadership.

Bob Reed, the governor’s spokesman, declined to comment on either issue. “The governor has said repeatedly in the past that he believes security will be more than ample, and he doesn’t want to discuss the details of that, for security reasons,” Reed said. “And it’s our policy not to comment on personnel changes. Don’t read anything into that; it’s our policy.”

A source inside ISP said specifics like how many troopers guard Quinn isn’t well-known even within the agency, except that it’s undoubtedly less than Blagojevich’s infamously bloated EPU. In 2004, WLS-TV in Chicago reported that a dozen troopers accompanied the governor to the national Democratic convention in Boston that year (the one where then-State Senator Barack Obama was the keynote speaker), and 10 to California for Blagojevich to attend a wedding and host a fundraiser.

The speculation regarding Trent’s position relates to the director’s reaction to the WLS-TV reports, which also included allegations of unprofessional conduct among troopers assigned to the security detail. Trent issued an order prohibiting ISP employees from speaking to the media without advance approval from his office. Then-Lt. Gov. Quinn sent Trent a letter accusing him of issuing an edict that would have “detrimental effects on good-faith whistleblowers,” and expounded on Trent’s “gag order” in the media.

“I think the directive’s tone, especially given the fact that in recent days certain troopers told the truth about certain things that needed to be straightened out and reformed, the tone of the letter I think was that it would sort of say to a lot of employees of the state police: Keep your mouth shut and look the other way,” Quinn told WLS-TV.

Another reason sources suspect Quinn may be looking to replace Trent is the director’s ties to Springfield businessman William Cellini. Trent was vice president of Cellini’s Argosy Gaming Company from 1993 until 2003 when Blagojevich tapped him to run ISP. Cellini, a Republican Party power-broker, was indicted on four federal counts of corruption a few months ago. Quinn is a Democrat.

One retired officer keeping close tabs on the action at ISP headquarters is former Lt. Michale Callahan, who filed suit against three high-ranking ISP officers alleging that they retaliated against him for urging a re-investigation into a politically-sensitive double homicide. A jury ruled in Callahan’s favor, but the decision was reversed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently ordered ISP to respond to Callahan’s pleading by May 1.

That order gives Callahan hope. “At least they’re looking into it,” he says. “I’m anxious to see how Quinn responds to that.”


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