Waukegan Police Chief Quits Over False Military Service Claims
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (STMW) — Robert Kerkorian resigned as Waukegan Police Chief on Monday, July 1, two months after being sworn in and three days after he released a public statement acknowledging that he falsely claimed to have trained as a Navy SEAL on his 1987 police department job application, the Lake County News-Sun is reporting.
Mayor Wayne Motley read a brief statement to the City Council at the start of Monday night’s meeting saying that he had asked for and accepted Kerkorian’s resignation earlier in the day due to the “distraction” caused by the Navy SEAL controversy.
Following a brief closed session to discuss what was announced as a personnel matter, Motley told a crowded council chamber that he made the move “to ensure that the Waukegan Police Department is focused on what’s most important, which is addressing crime in our community to keep our families and children safe.”
“It’s clear to me that this has become a distraction that will potentially stand in the way of the police department’s ability to deliver its primary mission: to serve our community and keep our neighbors safe,” Motley said. “That was not a risk I want to take, so that is why I asked for his resignation today.”
Motley added that Kerkorian, his former Waukegan Police colleague, is “an exceptional public servant who has given more than 25 years of his life in service to the residents of Waukegan. I respect the work he has done for the community and his commitment to Waukegan and the police department is unwavering.”
“However, he and I both agreed that it is in the best interests of our community that he step aside,” Motley said. “I trust that this decision will allow not only the city of Waukegan to move forward but also Robert Kerkorian and his family.”
According to Motley, Kerkorian will return to the department in his previous rank of commander. Deputy Chief Wayne Walles has been named interim chief, and Motley said a search will be conducted to find a permanent replacement.
Kerkorian was not in attendance for Monday’s meeting. His first detailed publc comments on the controversy came on Friday, June 28, when city attorney Charles Smith released a statement attemping to answer questions raised by a published report in early June alledging that Kerkorian listed “SEAL trainee” on his original application.
“I do acknowledge that in 1999 in discussions with another member of the department, I did misrepresent my Naval service,” Kerkorian wrote in the June 28 statement. “This was wrong of me and accept full responsibility for statements that I made to my fellow officer which were not true and indicated that I was involved military actions which I was not.”
Kerkorian included more detail in a June 29 letter addressed to Motley, aldermen and police department personnel. He wrote that while serving in the Navy in 1986, he was “selected for SEAL training” and reported to the Naval Special Warfare Group One in Coronado, Calif.
“I served in my preindoctrination class prior to the start of (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training until I was issued a general discharge under honorable conditions in February of 1987,” Kerkorian wrote. “My discharge was based on my principled refusal to discuss matters involving non-military family members that I deemed unrelated to my ability to serve our nation.”
Kerkorian’s June 29 letter reiterated comments made in his previous statement that he “did misrepresent my Naval service,” and he again referred the misrepresentation arising from “idle banter” with another officer in a social situation. He added that “I could have done a better job informing those that I never completed SEAL training.”
“I would like to apologize to the mayor, the city of Waukegan, its residents and the men and women of the Waukegan Police Department for not sharing information about a conversation that occurred 14 years ago,” Kerkorian wrote in the June 29 letter. “Also, I would like to apologize for the distraction this matter has become.
“Frankly, however, we have more important things to focus our energy on today, like doing everything we can to fight crime and keep our community safe. That’s where 100 percent of my focus is today, tomorrow and well into the future.”
The Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday that a former Waukegan police officer wrote a graduate-school paper in 1999 detailing a Navy SEAL mission that had been described to him by Kerkorian. The chief’s June 29 letter to city officials again made reference to false claims that he had been part of “military actions.”
Kerkorian was appointed chief on May 6 on the same night Motley was sworn in as mayor. Motley’s nomination of Kerkorian was approved by a unanimous City Council vote.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)