Sheriff hires supporter's relative

Former Sen. Bomke's son to start Monday

Sangamon County sheriff Wes Barr has hired the son of former state Sen. Larry Bomke, a Republican who contributed to the sheriff’s 2014 election campaign and called him a "once in a lifetime" candidate in a television commercial.

Lawrence Bomke will be sworn in as a sheriff’s deputy on Monday after more than five years as an officer with the Springfield Park District police department, where he had a checkered history. A former parks police chief who resigned under pressure in 2015 once called Bomke a “mediocre” officer who should have been terminated before his probationary period ended.

In 2013, while a probationary officer with the park district, Bomke fired an AR-15 inside park police headquarters and said that it was an accident. There was no reason to believe otherwise, but it wasn’t his only mistake. While a probationary officer, Bomke put a camera in a lost-and-found box instead of logging as evidence, contrary to department rules, and did the same thing with a wallet a month later, according to park department records. He also posted a message on Facebook, complaining that he had worked 13 days in a row and anyone who wasn’t behaving themselves while he was on duty would receive a citation unless they were “cute.”

The screwups prompted former parks police chief Jonathan Davis to recommend that Bomke be terminated, but Davis was overruled. According to Davis, Bomke had failed a written pre-employment test designed to identify unsuitable candidates. Davis has said that he informed Bomke that he would not be hired, then returned from a vacation to find that Bomke had been placed on the force. After his probationary period ended, Bomke at least twice skirted orders from Davis. He refused an order to drive a colleague to a repair shop to pick up a patrol vehicle, according to park district records. On another occasion, Bomke called a lawyer for the park district in protest when Davis ordered him to work an extra shift after another officer called in sick. After checking with Derek Harms, the park district’s executive director, the lawyer told Bomke that he could go home.

Barr said that he hired Bomke after checking with current parks police chief Laimutis “Limey” Nargelenas, who said that Bomke has been doing a good job.

“Because of his dad, I was hesitant to hire him because it may have an appearance,” Barr said. “I didn’t want his last name to prevent him from being hired. … He’s been through the psychological exam, just like everybody else.”

After being sworn in, Bomke, who has undergone training for part-time officers, will attend the state police training academy for fulltime officers, Barr said. He then will hit the streets with a field training officer who will oversee his performance. Bomke will remain a probationary deputy for one year after he is sworn in on Monday.

Former state Sen. Bomke, Lawrence Bomke’s father, kept his campaign fund alive after leaving the General Assembly in 2013 and contributed $11,100 from the fund to Barr’s campaign in 2014. Barr got an additional $2,000 in the form of a loan from Bomke’s campaign fund shortly before the 2014 election. Illinois State Board of Elections records show that Barr repaid the $2,000 loan last fall.

Barr, who is not running for reelection, said that the former senator’s 2014 endorsement and campaign contributions played no role in the decision to hire the senator’s son.

“Absolutely not,” Barr said.

Contact Bruce Rushton at

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