False military story forces Ill. chief to resign
Waukegan Police Chief Robert Kerkorian stepped down after acknowledging he made false claims, and will return to his former rank
By Dan Hinkel
WAUKEGAN, Ill. — Waukegan's police chief resigned from his post Monday at the mayor's request after acknowledging he made false claims about his military career. He will remain with the department at a lower rank.
Mayor Wayne Motley announced at Monday night's City Council meeting that he asked for and received Robert Kerkorian's resignation after a series of Tribune reports indicating the chief had made false claims about his military training and service as a Navy SEAL.
Motley praised the longtime police officer, who was appointed chief in May, as an "exceptional public servant" but said questions about Kerkorian's military career had become a "distraction."
Kerkorian will return to his former rank of commander, Motley said. Deputy Chief Wayne Walles takes over as interim chief while the city searches for a replacement.
Former Lake County prosecutor's office investigator Mark Pleasant, who had called for an investigation into Kerkorian's claims, said outside the council meeting Monday that SEALs and other special operations veterans have earned their revered place in military lore and "that place is not to be trespassed upon."
Kerkorian was not at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.
He is the second Waukegan police chief to be removed from office amid controversy in less than two months.
In one of his first acts after taking office in May, Motley appointed Kerkorian and demoted prior chief Daniel Greathouse in part because of comments Greathouse made about three city officers who have committed suicide since May 2011.
Earlier this year, Greathouse sent an internal email, which was subsequently publicized by the Tribune, telling grieving colleagues, "These suicides were about personal choices, selfishness and weakness."
Last Month, the Tribune reported that Kerkorian wrote in his 1987 department application that he had been a "SEAL trainee." A former police officer also said Kerkorian had told him he'd entered the force's grueling training.
Military records show Kerkorian was in the Navy from August 1986 to February 1987, but he was not in the database of SEALs or servicemen who entered the program that a Navy official said is the core of SEAL training.
Amid calls for an explanation, Kerkorian said nothing publicly for nearly a month. Motley, a former police officer who called the new chief a "very great friend," said the matter was "not relevant to his employment as chief."
The chief first addressed the issue late last week after the Tribune inquired about a former Waukegan police officer who said Kerkorian told him in 1999 that his SEAL squad came under fire during a foreign reconnaissance mission in the 1980s.
The officer put the account in a graduate school paper that did not name its subject, but the officer, who asked not to be named because he still works in law enforcement, confirmed that Kerkorian told him the story.
In a statement, Kerkorian acknowledged he did "misrepresent" his service during "idle banter." He admitted to falsely claiming involvement in military actions and acknowledged he tried to deflect questions about the issue.
Kerkorian maintained that calling himself a "SEAL trainee" was accurate. He said he was "selected for SEAL training," had a "pre-indoctrination class" and was sent to a California base where SEALs train. Navy records confirm he was sent to that base.
But the chief acknowledged he never entered Basic Underwater Demolition School/SEAL training, or BUD/S. A Navy official said that's the core of SEAL training.
Kerkorian said he was discharged from the Navy "under honorable conditions" after his "refusal to discuss matters involving nonmilitary family members" that he felt weren't related to his service. Military records provide little explanation of his discharge.
Copyright 2013 the Chicago Tribune
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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