North Chicago police sergeants have issued a vote of no confidence in their police chief and allege that he engaged in relationships with city employees, consumed alcohol on-duty and had nude photos on his work phone.
Five sergeants with the North Chicago Police Department filed a formal complaint and vote of no confidence on February 19 against North Chicago Police Chief Lazaro Perez.
The sergeants are represented by the Illinois Chapter of Police and represent the command element of the department’s three patrol shifts.
The Illinois Council of Police North Chicago Sergeant Chapter said in their formal complaint that Perez has lost the ability to lead the department as he has “lost the trust and support of his subordinates.”
The complaint said that Perez has “betrayed his oath of office” and breached the trust of his subordinates.
The complaint alleges that he engaged in extra-marital affairs with city employees.
“Chief Perez entered into a relationship with former Chief of Staff, Deb Waszak. At the time they entered into the relationship, she was his direct supervisor. Both parties were married at the time, and both parties misrepresented the truth about the nature of their relationship for a long time. Once the relationship was established as open and notorious; human resources provided information and direction about reporting relationships involving employees, and the Chief no longer reported to the Chief of Staff, instead he reported to the Mayor,” the complaint said.
The sergeants also filed a formal complaint in August 2021 regarding Perez allegedly consuming alcohol and operating a city vehicle while on duty.
In that complaint, they alleged that several North Chicago employees attended a city-sanctioned golf outing during business hours on a Monday in July 2021.
Perez and Waszak, who is now the current chief of staff in Fox Lake, were among those who attended.
During the event, Perez and Waszak engaged in an altercation over the chief’s work cell phone, the complaint said.
The dispute was de-escalated but Perez’s cell phone was damaged during the argument.
The chief arrived at the outing driving his city-issued vehicle, which he left the function in after “consuming several alcoholic beverages,” the complaint said.
The complaint said that it was learned days later that Perez’s work cell phone contained nude images of another female city employee, who was a subordinate of Waszak and the fiancé of a North Chicago police sergeant.
“The sergeant was able to confirm the highly inappropriate contact and conduct of both Chief Perez and Deb Waszak. The drinking and operating a city vehicle allegation was confirmed by witnesses that were in attendance. It was also confirmed that Waszak was displaying those images without authorization,” the complaint said.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office reportedly opened an investigation into the matter.
The sergeant whose fiancé engaged in the relationship with the chief was placed on paid leave for emotional trauma and mental health issues stemming from the “chief’s indiscretions,” the complaint said.
The sergeant has since returned to work but the chief has been directed to have no contact with the sergeant.
The sergeants also said there have only been five staff meetings since Perez was appointed chief four years ago.
“Many of those meetings he would leave before they were concluded and attend business elsewhere not giving his staff enough time to discuss critical topics such as manpower allocation, training, and hiring. When asked what his plan was for moving the department forward to encompass his vision and goals, his response was, ‘We’re going to wing it,’” the complaint said.
The five sergeants called for Perez, who is also the president of the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association, to resign or be removed from his post as police chief.
Lake and McHenry County Scanner reached out to North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham for comment.
“As a matter of policy, the City does not comment on personnel matters or on collective bargaining negotiations. The City does not have any further comment regarding this matter,” North Chicago Interim Chief of Staff David Kilbane said in a statement.
Kilbane provided Lake and McHenry County Scanner with a copy of a letter that Rockingham sent last week to the Illinois Council of Police North Chicago Sergeant Chapter in response to their formal complaint against Perez.
“In the middle of contract negotiations, and while attempting defend an individual who refused to comply with a directive to go for a drug and alcohol test, a group of five police sergeants have dug into the past to sling mud. When faced with a proposal for 12 hour work shifts that have the potential to enhance service to the community and reduce overtime expenses, rather than dealing with their disagreements at the collective bargaining table, the sergeants’ union has resorted to a so-called vote of no confidence,” Rockingham said in the letter.
The union later told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that sergeant contract negotiations had not begun yet — disputing Rockingham’s claim that the complaint was filed “in the middle of contract negotiations.”
In his letter, Rockingham disputed the sergeants’ claim that Perez ever reported to the city’s chief of staff. “At no point has Chief Perez ever reported to the Chief of Staff. Chief Perez reported to Chief Wilson when he was Deputy Chief of Police, and he has reported directly to me as Mayor at all times as the Chief of Police, as have prior Chiefs of Police.”
“Chief Perez’s consensual, personal relationship was no secret to anybody at the time he was appointed as Chief. Since his appointment as Chief, he has improved our police department in countless ways. Rather than sacrificing patrol officers, he sacrificed the deputy chief position, taking both jobs onto his shoulders. He saved the City hundreds of thousands of dollars by transitioning dispatch services to another agency without any loss in service levels,” Rockingham said.
The mayor said that he “firmly” believes in the power of forgiveness and believes in giving second chances when appropriate. “When I learned that Chief Perez made mistakes in his private, off duty conduct, I spoke with him about the situation. He immediately acknowledged his mistakes, and he committed himself to avoiding such issues in the future. Although the issues occurred off duty, Chief Perez willingly accepted his discipline.”
“The Union’s no confidence vote is a thinly veiled bargaining tactic in a misguided effort to protect their overtime dollars. I support Chief Perez’s efforts to find ways to provide better service while reducing overtime expenses, and I will not be bullied by the Union’s tactics,” Rockingham said at the end of his letter.