USA — The FBI’s look into questionable spending and equipment use in the Oak Forest Fire Department will not result in charges, city and bureau officials said this week.
That will allow embattled former fire chief Lindsay Laycoax to serve the rest of his paid time off until September then officially retire.
“Our internal investigation of the matter was thorough, timely and dealt with facts rather than rumors,” Mayor JoAnn Kelly said in a prepared statement. “The FBI appeared satisfied with our internal investigation when we first met. It is clear from this decision that the city’s actions were appropriate.”
Allegations of financial mismanagement swirled around Laycoax for several weeks late last year. Then, just before the Dec. 11 city council meeting, Kelly announced Laycoax would be retiring.
Kelly said city Treasurer Dwayne Fox, city administrator Steve Jones and city Controller Colleen Julian conducted the city’s internal investigation. The three concluded poor judgment was to blame for questionable purchases by the department and loaning of department equipment for personal use.
FBI officials last month decided to look into the matter.
FBI spokesman Ross Rice declined to discuss specifics relating to the Oak Forest case. He said the bureau determined further investigation was not warranted because there either was no apparent violation of federal criminal law or it didn’t reach the “threshold for federal prosecution.”
Rice said there wasn’t a specific dollar amount that constituted the FBI’s threshold. He said the bureau looks at the totality of the facts, including injury and economic loss, in conjunction with the U.S. attorney before proceeding with prosecution.
“If a bank teller takes $20 from her drawer, she’s violated federal law. Will we want to prosecute that in front of a federal judge? Probably not,” Rice said.
Laycoax has been absent from public view for weeks. He has not returned repeated calls by the SouthtownStar seeking comment and has missed the past two meetings of the Forest Ridge School District 142 board, of which he is president.
Meanwhile, the city is in the process of recruiting a new fire chief.
City officials said they have received 35 applicants for the job and the search is narrowing.
“We want to bring in someone with the professionalism and ethics the community and fire department deserve,” Jones said. “The mayor and council have made great strides in professionalizing the city staff over the past several years. The fire chief recruitment provides a wonderful opportunity to further that goal.”