PLAINFIELD – Plainfield Township Park District employees, under orders from supervisors, cut the locks on a private soccer organization’s storage shed where equipment reportedly disappeared earlier this year, according to accounts given to police.
The police investigation into the matter has not led to criminal charges and did not locate the missing equipment.
The reports on the investigation were obtained by a Plainfield resident and shared with several media outlets.
The police reports indicate that a park district employee cut the locks in January on the storage shed, located in the park district’s Renwick Park.
But the employee reportedly received orders from higher in the district administration to cut the locks and move equipment belonging to the Plainfield Soccer Association. Who gave the initial order was unclear to police.
The confusion centers on whether former Executive Director Garrett Peck or Superintendent of Parks Gene Coldwater gave the order to cut the locks.
While the missing equipment never turned up, PSA President Rob Ayres said going to the police was a good decision.
“It definitely captured the fact that there was a lot of tension between PSA and the park district,” Ayres said. “By notifying police, we had an independent third party investigating it. We just wanted to know what happened to the equipment.”
On March 18, PSA officials noticed that someone had broken into the shed by cutting off the organization’s locks and installed new ones.
At that time, Coldwater gave the PSA permission to cut the new locks to get inside the shed, which is on park district property. PSA officials said several bags of soccer equipment worth approximately $1,000 were missing.
Many of the organization’s field boxes were also reported missing.
Ayres filed a police report, and Plainfield Det. Matt Lehmann started an investigation.
According to police interviews recorded in the reports, Park Supervisor Keith Miller and Mowing Supervisor Dale Thomas said they went to the shed and participated in cutting the locks.
The employees said the incident happened sometime in January, while Peck was the executive director.
Both employees said Joe Masters, parks and maintenance division manager, gave the direct order to cut the locks.
Masters told police that Coldwater gave him the order to have locks changed at the shed, and he relayed that order to Thomas.
Lehmann met several times with Coldwater, who told him that the previous eight months were very turbulent under the direction of Peck and Commissioner Peter Hurtado, who was board president at the time.
Coldwater said his memory has been a “blur,” and he didn’t recall having the locks removed or giving the orders. He said Masters told him Peck ordered the locks removed.
During a second meeting with Lehmann, Coldwater said he remembered receiving an order from Peck to lock all buildings and equipment from PSA because of “unpaid bills,” and that the park district would hold those items as “ransom.”
Peck did not respond to Herald-News requests for comment.
Coldwater also said he didn’t remember giving Masters the order, but he probably did.
Lehmann walked with Coldwater through all of the park district’s facilities to search for the equipment without finding it.
Lehmann also met with Peck on April 30. Peck said he didn’t remember if he gave an order to have the locks cut, but he mentioned an ongoing dispute between PSA and the park district over unpaid bills.
Peck said he did tell employees to remove the soccer goals and store them in lieu of payment. He questioned whether the equipment was ever stolen.
Lehmann also tried to contact Hurtado, who had a fallout with PSA years ago, but couldn’t reach him.
Hurtado said he was in Peru but eventually returned the phone call and left a message with Plainfield police on May 12 or 13.
“I don’t know anything about what happened,” Hurtado said.
The police investigation is closed, but could be reopened if new leads develop.
The police reports were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Plainfield resident Vicky Polito, who provided them to Ayres. Ayres has shared the reports with local media.