SANDWICH – Sandwich resident Phil Harbacek said he was blown away when he heard the news about Mayor Richard A. “Rick” Olson being charged with soliciting sex from a woman he thought was a prostitute.
Harbacek, who lives a few houses down from Olson on Castle Street, said it’s something that he would expect to happen in Las Vegas more than he would expect in Sandwich. He said it was more surprising for him because of Olson being police chief for the city not too long ago.
“I don’t think anybody would have seen that coming,” Harbacek said.
Harbacek’s reaction came as Olson resigned Monday, May 13, days after police announced the charges against him.
Sandwich City Clerk Denise Ii said her office received a resignation letter from Olson on Monday, which she read aloud during the Sandwich City Council meeting Monday.
Olson, who did not attend the meeting, wrote in the letter that he tendered his resignation as mayor with deep regret following a personal legal matter outside of the office of mayor. He wrote that he apologized for the shame he brought to the community and hopes the city will continue to prosper while he now seeks the forgiveness of his family.
Olson had declined additional comment Monday.
Ward 1 Alderman Rich Robinson was appointed mayor pro tempore just for the meeting with a vote of 6-0 after Olson’s resignation. He abstained from the vote and Ward 2 Alderman Kevin Kelleher was absent.
Sandwich City Attorney Jessica Harrill declined comment on any city matters after the meeting, including the procedure to appoint a new mayor.
Robinson said the plan is to have a special meeting next week for the City Council to discuss potential mayor appointees and most likely make a recommendation for mayor. He said he believes the council can discuss the matter in executive session and can take action after the executive session, as long as it’s on the agenda to do so, and then officially start the meeting with that person being appointed as mayor.
When asked about his reaction to the charges brought against Olson, Robinson said it’s not his issue to comment on and that it’s a personal issue for Olson.
“Basically, it’s between him and his family, and it really wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on it,” Robinson said. “He’s a friend of mine and I feel for him, and my thoughts are with him.”
John “Bob” Perkins, a Sandwich resident and former police commissioner for the city, said during public comment at the City Council meeting that he’d like to see Robinson appointed as mayor. He said he doesn’t trust some aldermen and has known Robinson to be a very honest person for about 20 years from his days in law enforcement.
When asked about his reaction to Olson’s resignation and the surrounding circumstances, Perkins said he though Olson was corrupt from the start and didn’t like him as a result.
“It was way beyond time for him to leave,” Perkins said.
Allen DeGroot of Sandwich said he heard what happened through a friend, but didn’t know anything about it until then. He said he was shocked to hear the news, since he also knew Olson from around town.
“I just didn’t think he’d do something like that,” DeGroot said.
Tom Price, who lives in Plano, but works as a real estate agent in Lake Holiday, said he had no idea what happened, but knew Olson from various networking events around the area. He said his initial reaction was disappointment and disbelief when he heard about the charges against Olson.
“I mean, I have drank beers with him,” Price said.
Price said he likens his reaction to hearing about the charges against Olson to when he heard about the sexual abuse allegations against former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who Price also knew personally. He said he knows everyone is human and make mistakes.
“But when you’re in public service, those people need to be held accountable,” Price said.
Sue Saballus, Somonauk resident and co-owner of the Bull Moose Bar & Grille, said the charges against Olson and his resignation definitely have been a huge topic of conversation among staff and patrons. She said she feels bad for Olson and his family, but, ultimately, everyone makes mistakes and people shouldn’t judge others because of that.
“Until you walk in someone’s shoes, you don’t know what it’s like,” Saballus said.
Recently retired Ward 4 Alderman Bill McMahon said he started as alderman about the same time Olson started as police chief and that Olson was a good guy who meant well. He said he heard some rumblings of Olson being arrested about a month ago, so he wasn’t floored by the news, but it’s still unfortunate that it happened.
“It feels kind of sad for his family and the city of Sandwich,” McMahon said.
McMahon said Robinson has acted as mayor pro tempore before and that Robinson, as the senior-most alderman, might be the top choice for mayor after Olson’s resignation. But, McMahon said Robinson still has a job and is unsure if he’d retire early to be mayor.
Regardless, McMahon said he thinks the City Council does a good job and believes they’ll iron everything out.
“We’ll see what happens,” McMahon said.