Four long years after the fact, former Kane County Deputy Stephen Yahnke is suing Sheriff Pat Perez for more than $1 million in damages and, oh yes!, his job back.
Mr. Yahnke claims the Sheriff violated his First Amendment rights by terminating him for supporting then general election opponent Kevin Williams. The supposed CSI smoking gun moment is former Undersheriff Steve Ziman’s deposition testimony in which he claims Perez said, “I am going to fire (Yahnke) because some day he is going to run against me for sheriff.”
Let’s list all the problems with that supposition:
1. I know Sheriff Perez and he wouldn’t be stupid enough to say something like that on his worst day. Even if he did harbor some latent Machiavellian tendencies, that’s just not the kind of thing anyone with half a brain says out loud.
2. As Sun-Tzu is purported to have said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” County Clerk Jack Cunningham will readily attest that you don’t fire political opponents, you hire their wives. If you fire them, then they’re bound to run against you and they have the time to do it!
C’mon! If Sheriff Perez made a practice out of firing political enemies, then why is Kevin Williams still working there? Wouldn’t he have been the first to go? Not only that, but Pat Gengler supported Williams and he’s their Communications Officer.
3. The Sheriff can’t summarily fire anyone because the union would have a fit. Before any termination can take place, the malfeasance has to be clearly documented. Then there’s an investigative interview. Then there’s a pre-disciplinary hearing where the deputy has their say. If senior staff recommend a suspension of 3 or more days, then it goes before the merit commission which consists of retired police officers.
Yahnke was facing 5 separate unrelated “just cause” incidents meaning he could’ve been fired for any one. After he and his attorney waived their right to the merit commission hearing, he still had 10 days to appeal their termination ruling, but he chose not to.
Here’s the real story folks. Through a mutual friend, Ziman put out feelers to ascertain whether Perez would support him in a 2014 run for for Sheriff. Mere days after Perez declined that generous offer, the former undersheriff provided that interesting deposition testimony.
As the First Lady of Soul once sang, “Who’s zoomin’ who?”