CHICAGO - Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent has recommended a four-month suspension without pay for the former head of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's security detail following an internal investigation into his conduct, a state police spokesman said Thursday.
Lt. Tom Ceja's case still must be heard by the Illinois State Police Merit Board, which can increase or decrease any discipline, state police spokesman Lt. Lincoln Hampton said.
The investigation focused on Ceja's behavior as commander of Blagojevich's security detail as well as the behavior of several others in the executive protection unit, Hampton said.It was prompted by a television news report last year that raised questions about the conduct of some of Blagojevich's bodyguards and their use on private trips.
Hampton said other bodyguards also might face discipline, but he declined to elaborate. Trent was on vacation and unavailable to comment, Hampton said.
Trent recommended a four-month suspension for Ceja, a 22-year member of the State Police, because he "felt that, after reviewing the information the investigation revealed, that that was appropriate," Hampton said.
The report by WLS-TV Channel 7 spotlighted a car crash involving a state trooper, said troopers who guard the governor allowed friends and family to travel in police cars, and said one trooper was briefly suspended for not reporting that he saw the governor's personal driver drinking on the job.
Hampton would not address aspects of the report relating to Ceja. Calls to Ceja's attorney were not returned. A phone number for a Thomas Ceja, found in a public listing, was busy.
The television report said Ceja and a 23-year-old intern violated police policy by traveling from Springfield to a Chicago hotel to attend a conference that had already been canceled, and that Ceja lied on six occasions during questioning by state police officials.
Hampton verified that Ceja left his fully loaded 40-caliber state police pistol and handcuffs in a car parked outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, likely in 2004, and they were stolen when Ceja attended a sporting event. Ceja was required to have had the weapon stored safely and securely, Hampton said.
The Illinois State Police Merit Board has its next quarterly meeting on Jan. 20 in Springfield, but it is not clear if Ceja's case will be heard then. James Seiber, the board executive director, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
State Police rules of conduct offer a range of discipline for various offenses that may be imposed, but the discipline does not have to be imposed, Hampton said. Job termination is among the available disciplines for officers found to have lied.
In April, Ceja was removed as head of the executive protection unit because of the ongoing investigation and because Trent wanted the unit to "change direction," Hampton said.
Ceja's pay was reduced then from $110,124 annually to $97,344 annually, according to the state comptroller's office. But the State Police got a raise and Ceja's pay increased to $98,316 annually in July, Hampton said
Ceja is now a bureau chief in the State Police operations services command, Hampton said.