Some of the hardest working, most dedicated, courteous and selfless police officers in America are members of the East St. Louis Police Department. I’ve witnessed it on countless occasions, from a distance and in my own personal encounters. It’s a thankless job, particularly in a high-crime community and with a shortage of manpower.
That’s why it’s particularly perturbing when a rogue cop, instead of protecting and serving the community, engages in self-serving or criminal behavior unbefitting the badge they display.
Take the recent indictment by a federal grand jury of Mario Fennoy. He was a 21-year veteran and desk sergeant for the ESL police department.
Fennoy is accused by U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft of submitting over 50 bogus claims (over 200 hours’ worth) for overtime pay (from April 2017 to March 2018), all while chilling in the comfort of his secondary home in East Boogie (he actually resides in Lebanon, Illinois).
Furthermore, the indictment (filed on June 18) alleges that “federal agents used various forms of…surveillance” to determine that during that time Fennoy “falsely cleared calls and purported to respond to dispatches while never actually leaving his secondary home.”
This alleged administrative sleight of hand bumped Fennoy’s base salary from $69,382 to over $200,000 in total pay. He’s been on administrative leave, since May 2018, after former ESL City Manager Daffney Moore wisely called attention to the matter.
But this isn’t the first allegation of ethical conflicts for Fennoy. Previously, former State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly placed him on his “no-credibility” list.
And because ESL received over $10,000 of federal program funds during the period of Fennoy’s alleged fraudulent activity, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal penitentiary (if convicted), as well as payment of $250,000 in restitution.
What makes these allegations even more egregious is the excessive greed and predatory nature of the purported crime. No one denies that overtime is required in East Boogie, due to high crime and understaffing. It’s par for the course in such communities.
However, when one allegedly shirks their responsibility, violates the public trust – especially of those in a poor community with already depleted services – it becomes a betrayal of the citizens that they pledged to serve, as well as a betrayal of their fellow officers who depend on them to, at the very least, to attempt to pull their weight, not sit in their easy chair while they’re on the clock.
It’s also another unforced error and blow to a community with an already bad political reputation. So in the span of one month, East Boogie has gone from celebrating state high school basketball and track championships to this, reverting from a reputation as a “city of champions” to a “city of felons.”
If these charges are true, then apparently the threat of federal incarceration hasn’t changed the political culture of the community, because too many politicians, bad cops and other blood suckers of the poor haven’t learned the lesson. Greed and selfishness continues to be the order of the day.
I don’t know the answer but, obviously, a new paradigm is needed and, apparently, it won’t come from the federal prosecutor.