Elgin spent $7,380 for communications firm in wake of fatal police shooting

 
 
Updated 4/15/2019 7:57 PM
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  • Elgin has spent $7,380 for "public affairs and communications consulting" provided by Bayless Communications regarding the 2018 fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements.

      Elgin has spent $7,380 for "public affairs and communications consulting" provided by Bayless Communications regarding the 2018 fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements. Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

Elgin has spent $7,380 for "public affairs and communications consulting" regarding the 2018 fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements, and city officials aren't saying whether they plan to spend more.

Bayless Communications of Chicago has served as a valuable resource to deal with a sensitive issue, Police Chief Ana Lalley said. "You only have one opportunity to convey what you need to convey in the proper way," she said.

"When you're being very mindful of how this impacts so many people, and you're being super careful to be considerate to everybody, I don't think it's bad to ask for expert advice or opinions."

Documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request show Bayless provided 21.75 hours of work at $205 per hour in late March 2018, when the police department released the video of the March 12, 2018, shooting of Clements by Lt. Chris Jensen. Bayless also provided 14.25 hours of work in February, when the police department announced the Cook County state's attorney's office cleared Jensen, and that the city would hire a firm to conduct an internal investigation of the shooting.

Bayless' invoices include meetings, reviewing and revising statements, and monitoring media and social media. The city wasn't billed for a meeting in November.

Firm principal David Bayless said his job was to provide "guidance and an outside perspective" after the city made a public commitment to communicate "frequently and assertively" with the public about the shooting.

"I have clients, sometimes, that I have to nudge them toward transparency. I need to 'pull them out of the bunker,'" Bayless said. "That wasn't the case with Elgin."

Bayless said the only documents he drafted were a media advisory and news release for the March 22, 2018, news conference, when then-Police Chief Jeff Swoboda released the police video of the shooting. A statement released in February by Lalley was written by Lalley, and Bayless gave input.

Swoboda, now the police chief in Fort Collins, Colorado, declined to comment.

Bayless has done work for several suburban municipalities, including Fox Lake after Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz killed himself in 2016 in an attempt to cover up his embezzlement, and Schaumburg after three undercover police officers were arrested on drug conspiracy charges in 2013.

"The objective analysis, guidance and logistical support Bayless Communications provided to the city were critical components for ensuring information was readily conveyed to the media and public in a timely and wholly transparent manner," City Manager Rick Kozal said.

The independent investigation of the Clements shooting was expected to last through late April or early May. At that time, Lalley said, she will release the Illinois State Police report of the shooting. The city will decide whether Jensen -- who's been on paid leave since the shooting -- will be allowed to return to duty. Community activists, Clements' family and two city council members have called for Jensen's firing.

Neither Lalley nor Kozal would say whether they intend to keep working with Bayless through any of that.

"If the city encounters future circumstances in which it can conceivably benefit for Bayless Communications' expertise, the city will certainly consider retaining the firm again," Kozal said.

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