Champaign council signs off on $70,000 settlement
CHAMPAIGN — Just weeks after more than 200 people came out to protest the continued employment of Officer Matt Rush, Patricia Avery stood alone as she addressed the Champaign City Council on a rainy Tuesday night.
Avery, the Champaign County NAACP president, said that even though only seven members of the public were at the meeting, the community has done its job.
"They've spoken," Avery said.
Council members agreed as they unanimously approved the $70,000 settlement of Kisica Seets' excessive-force lawsuit. Since December, the council has settled three settlements involving Rush for a total of $320,000.
Rush, who was fired by Chief Anthony Cobb only to be given his job back by an arbitrator, is now on unpaid leave, after taking paid leave until he exhausted his benefit time last week.
At the Dec. 15 meeting, protestors demanded that Rush be fired or resign, that State's Attorney Julia Rietz investigate him for criminal charges and that the city form a citizen police review board.
Councilman Will Kyles said the city's response to the public's demands — by putting Rush on leave and agreeing to discuss a citizen police review board — let the public knew it had been heard.
He said the response is much better than the city's response to the accidental shooting death of Kiwane Carrington.
"We are a better community today," Kyles said. "This response is different. I don't think you need 500 people in the room to say the same thing. I know this response, as far as an internal investigation and going through the whole arbitration process, it's the best we have done as a city, together."
Kyles said he was encouraged because Cobb took the right step in firing Rush, and the city council has agreed to discuss a citizen police review board.
Avery praised these developments but said Rietz, who has subpoenaed the city for internal documents, needs to go ahead and charge Rush.
It's up to Rietz to take the next step, Kyles said, but at the very least, citizens can know that Rush will not be considered a trustworthy officer in court proceedings.
Mayor Deb Feinen agreed with Kyles' assessment of the city.
"We are different than we once were," she said.
Feinen said Champaign is working with Urbana and other governments on developing plans to lobby for changes in state arbitration laws.
"These are state laws that have to be changed," Kyles said. "And that originates here in audience participation."
Councilman Matt Gladney said that, even though he voted in support, he wasn't happy about the settlement.
"I certainly hope that this is the last time we have to vote on something like this for quite some time," Gladney said.
Still, local activist Martel Miller — whose son, Calvin, alleged that Rush used excessive force in arresting him after a police chase in 2011 and continues to fear police because of the incident — said he will continue to speak at council meetings until Rush is no longer on the force.
"Every day, (Calvin) lives a nightmare, and I live it with him," Miller said.