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By Randy Pierce
Chairman Kurt Prenzler’s proposed appointment of Michael “Doc” Holliday was defeated by the Madison County Board on Wednesday, February 15, by a margin of 15-8, following a recommendation from its government relations committee, chaired by Stacey Pace of Troy, to do so.
As one of 12 items on the board agenda involving various appointments, Prenzler had selected Holliday, who represents a district located in Alton, to fill a vacant position on the Southwestern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission Board of Directors as a representative from Madison County, filling a vacancy created by the death last month of Bill Meyer of Hamel.
Pace and another county board member serving on the government relations committee, Mike Babcock of Bethalto, had prefaced that meeting by issuing a statement earlier the same day expressing their opposition to the selection of Holliday for the SILEC position.
In “taking issue” with the appointment, the comments from Pace and Babcock indicated that Holliday had expressed support of Illinois’ SAFE-T Act, its formal title consisting of the terminology “Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity – Today” as it pertains to law enforcement, the treatment of criminals and related matters.
Pace and Babcock said the state bill has been “widely criticized as weakening law enforcement and for its elimination of cash bail for most offenses.”
At the February 21, 2021 meeting of the Madison County Board, a resolution asking the governor to veto the SAFE-T Act was approved with 25 affirmative votes and only one “no” coming from Holliday.
“There are 26 members of the county board,” Pace commented, “so it’s really confusing as to why Mr. Prenzler would choose” the one “who has been least supportive of law enforcement to serve on this commission.”
“He should be appointing someone who reflects the overall views of the county board, the law enforcement community and the citizens of this county. This appointment clearly falls short of that.”
The statement from Pace and Babcock additionally noted that “the controversial SAFE-T Act has been opposed overwhelmingly by law enforcement throughout the state. In 2022, Madison County, States Attorney Tom Haine and Sheriff John Lakin filed a bi-partisan lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the act. After being sworn in as sheriff in December 2022, (Jeff) Connor joined the lawsuit.”
Extensive discussion concerning the appointment which took place at the county board meeting saw Pace mentioning that the government relations committee voted four yes and two no against Holliday filling the SILEC position while adding that she had received telephone calls about it.
Board member Terry Eaker of Bethalto spoke concerning his qualifications to serve on the SILEC board as a result of his serving as an auxiliary police officer for four-and-a-half years in that community along with his chairmanship of the board’s public safety committee and his recommendation for the role by Madison County Sheriff Jeff Connor of Maryville.
“What I am trying to find out,” Eaker said, “is why I was passed over and it’s nothing against Doc, I would just like to know why he is more qualified than I am.”
Prenzler responded that he had sent out an e-mail asking for candidates after Meyer’s passing and received three names, Holliday, Eaker and board member Paul Nicolussi of Collinsville. Then Prenzler mentioned that Holliday is the senior member of the county board and “he’s been elected many times in Alton.”
With county board member Ryan Kneedler of Collinsville also serving with the SILEC in a similar capacity, Prenzler said choosing Holliday represents a broad geographical coverage for the Madison County.
Babcock brought up the SAFE-T Act issue to Prenzler, saying to support it as Holliday has “is in conflict with policing” while “offering nothing for the safety of Madison County residents.”
Further sharing how Holliday responded with “no comment” to Babcock’s questions about the former’s take on the SAFE-T Act during the government relations committee meeting, Babcock added, “If you want to be on a committee, you should be able to answer the questions. I think that concerns me. It also concerns me that you’re (Prenzler) putting someone on there who supports the SAFE-T Act after we all voted it down.”
“I’ve been told,” Prenzler answered, “that Doc Holliday has been a strong supporter of the police and does support the Second Amendment (which concerns the right to bear arms).”
Regarding the state legislation concern and adding, “I have had differences with Mr. Holliday on other issues,” Prenzler said, “I don’t think that disqualifies him from being able to contribute on the SILEC board.”