Director fired after improper law certificate given to donor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board was fired this fall after an investigation found that he improperly issued a law enforcement certificate to an unqualified local philanthropist who’s also the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Governor determined that Brent Fischer, executive director of the standards board since 2015, issued the certificate to Howard Buffett, who had served a 14-month appointment as Macon County sheriff and in 2016 had donated land and $15 million for a law enforcement training academy.

Buffett’s name is redacted in the report but he’s identified by his resume and philanthropic activity.

The standards board removed Fischer, who had previously been Adams County Sheriff for 17 years, on Sept. 8 from the $156,780 job after receiving the inspector general’s report. Such reports are by law kept confidential unless released by the Executive Ethics Commission, although reports that lead to termination of employment must be released within 60 days.

The inspector general’s investigation found that three hours after the board accepted a $10,000 donation from Buffett in January 2019 for a canine training program, Fischer issued a training waiver to allow Buffett to serve as a part-time undersheriff and a certificate to become a part-time law enforcement officer.

“Certification of law enforcement officer status, especially considering the significant public interest in maintaining integrity in that process, should not be minimized nor should it be provided based on someone’s ability to financially contribute … to the law enforcement community,” the report said.

The report recommended the board develop standards regarding conflicts of interest.

Attempts to contact Fischer on numbers listed in his name were unsuccessful. In a written response to the inspector, he said the report failed “to state any established rule, regulation, statute, or even norm I somehow violated. My performance should be measured against known, objective and accepted standards.”

Fischer was involved in another incident in January 2020 when he was forced to end a contract with an employee whose name surfaced in an email purporting government coverups involving a rape and illegal state hiring. It was sent a decade ago by a powerful lobbyist to a former governor. Current Gov. J.B. Pritzker referred that matter for investigation.

Buffett has completed a substantial portion of the training courses but is short of the 560 hours required. He has served in volunteer and auxiliary sheriff’s office positions in Arizona as well as Illinois.

He was appointed Macon County sheriff in 2017 to fill a vacancy, serving for 14 months. At the time, sheriffs only had to be a U.S. citizen, live in the county for a year and have no felony record to qualify for the job.

Buffett did not run in 2018 but that election was so close it resulted in a nearly three-year legal battle that was just resolved in June.

That same month, Buffett dropped plans to seek the job in 2022 because a police-standards overhaul signed into law last winter requires elected sheriffs to have completed the basic training course.

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Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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