CHAMPAIGN — City council members will find out who the new police chief is in Champaign the same time everyone else does: Friday morning.
Council members said Thursday evening they had received word that City Manager Steve Carter will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Friday to announce his choice for the replacement for R.T. Finney, but that they didn't know who the new chief would be.
Carter could not be reached for comment.
Mayor Don Gerard and council members Tom Bruno, Will Kyles and Marci Dodds all said they didn't know the name of the new chief.
The announcement is to be broadcast on the city’s cable channel 5 and streamed live on the city’s website .
Of the four finalists, two — Urbana Assistant Chief Anthony Cobb and Oak Forest Police Chief Gregory Anderson — are from Illinois. The other finalists are from Missouri and Michigan: then-St. Louis police Lt. Col. Antoinette Filla and East Lansing, Mich., police Capt. Kim Johnson.
Cobb grew up in Champaign-Urbana and has been with the Urbana Police Department since September 1992. He was the city's first community policing officer. He was a patrol sergeant from December 1998 to May 2006, when he was named a lieutenant and patrol division commander. He became assistant chief in October 2010. Current Chief Patrick Connolly and his predecessor, Mike Bily, both had been assistant chief before being named to the top spot in that city.
Filla could not be reached for comment, but a person answering the phone said she no longer works at the department. Messages for Cobb, Anderson and Johnson were not returned.
"For whatever reason the city manager is being very mum about it," said Gerard. "I can honestly say I do not know who it is. My guess is as good as yours. But I am certain it will be the best candidate for the job."
"I got an email that they will announce the police chief (Friday), and they aren't telling anybody — including me," said Bruno. "We are entering into an employment agreement, but we have not been told who the city manager has selected.
"Only the city manager and I suppose somebody in the city legal or personnel department knows. I don't know, and that's because we can't keep a secret."
Marci Dodds said fellow council member Deb Frank Feinen called her to tell her about the email.
"I don't know, either," she said.
Council member Will Kyles also said he didn't know who the chief would be.
Carter's news conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the city council chambers in the city building, 102 N. Neil St., C.
The new chief will take over a department that has been hit by internal and external conflicts.
The department has been involved in several high-profile incidents involving African-American suspects, including the fatal shooting of Kiwane Carrington in 2009 in what was reported to be a burglary in progress, police chases and a June 2011 pepper-spraying of a man on the University of Illinois campus.
An anonymous email criticized Finney and others for favoritism within the department in testing for promotions. The email said the test favored those who already had taken the test before, because reading material had been reused and they would be more familiar with it. In addition, it alleged that Finney and Deputy Chief John Murphy were biased in terms of promotions and assignments. Carter concluded there had been no wrongdoing with respect to the test.
The city council chambers became the scene of several highly charged meetings in which supporters and opponents took turns blasting and praising the department.
News-Gazette staff writer Tim Mitchell contributed to this report.