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Town Council Fires Officer; Sponsors Him
June 13, 2007 - Although their unhappiness with police officer Chris Lane's job performance led them to fire him on May 25, three members of the Knightstown Town Council still want to continue sponsoring Lane's training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy so that he can get a law enforcement job elsewhere.
Council President David Glenn, Vice President Nate Hamilton and member Steve Nelson voted during a special meeting June 4 to pay money the town owes Lane for accumulated personal and sick days over the remaining four weeks of his ILEA training. The purpose of doing this is to make it seem as though Lane is still on the town payroll.
Nelson said the council had incorrectly thought it could continue to sponsor Lane's ILEA training after it fired him, but has since learned Lane must continue receiving paychecks from the town if he wants to complete his remaining four weeks at the academy. Knightstown Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines, who said the town's normal practice is to issue one final check to former employees still owed money, explained what someone from the ILEA had told her about Lane's situation.
"They said since he started … at the beginning, as a town employee, that he would have to finish as an employee," said Haines. "That's what bothered me, because if we break up his paychecks, we're, in essence, stating that he's still a town employee. And according to our (policies), as long as he's a town employee, we have to pay him for 40 hours a week. So, without some kind of agreement that he would sign saying he expected no compensation from the town, I think we're putting ourselves at risk."
The council's attorney, Joel Harvey - who was sitting in for the absent David Copenhaver - said he thought the town could enter into such an agreement with Lane. He said once an agreement is drafted, the council will have to meet again to approve it.
Nelson made a motion that the town pay Lane whatever he's still owed over his remaining four weeks of academy so long as Lane signs an agreement saying he won't hold the town responsible for wages during that time. Hamilton seconded the motion.
"The agreement of the board was that we would do this only if it was at no expense whatsoever to the town," Glenn told member Cort Swincher, who had not attended the May 25 meeting where Lane was fired. "That would be the only way it would be done. If he doesn't agree to that, we'll drop it."
Responding to a question from Harvey, Glenn said the council had agreed at the May 25 meeting that it wanted to continue sponsoring Lane's ILEA training. Nelson told Harvey, however, the matter had not actually been put to a vote by the council at that time.
Before the council voted on Nelson's motion to spread Lane's remaining pay out over the next four weeks, Swincher said he needed to ask a question. "Apparently, what (Lane had) done was such a violation of policy, that the council voted to terminate his employment" he said. "If it was that bad … why in the world wold you continue to stretch this out and pay the guy and keep ties with him?"
Swincher said he did not have all the details about why Glenn, Hamilton, Nelson and council member Valerie Trump had fired Lane during the May 25 special meeting. He said other members of the council knew he wouldn't be able to attend an afternoon meeting that day and also noted that the council's decision to fire Lane had been made without the recommendation of Chief of Police Earl Patterson.
"Just because he didn't fit what we felt like we needed for Knightstown, we were trying not damage in anyway his chances of becoming a law officer or finishing the academy," Glenn said.
"So, then somebody should have checked with the academy before we terminated him to see if it was going to be a problem," Swincher replied. "True?" Nelson said he didn't think there would be a problem with the town continuing to sponsor Lane's ILEA training after his firing. He said the town had previously sponsored someone at the ILEA who was not an employee of the town, and thought that could be done with Lane as well.
Glenn again said that the council had not wanted to damage Lane's reputation or the harm the possibility of him getting a law enforcement job elsewhere. This prompted Swincher to ask, "Then why in the world didn't you take the chief's recommendation?"
"Because it wasn't sufficient," Glenn answered.
Nelson reminded the council that there was a motion on the table. Glenn, Hamilton and Nelson voted in favor, and Swincher voted against it. Council member Valerie Trump did not attend Monday's meeting.
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