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Law Enforcement Official Says Latest Town Council Episode ‘Like a Sham’
July 4, 2007 - A former Knightstown police officer terminated by the Knightstown Town Council in late May was not allowed to complete training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, as academy officials rejected the council's questionable efforts to help him do just that.
Four members of the council - President David Glenn, Vice President Nate Hamilton, and members Valerie Trump and Steve Nelson - voted at a special meeting on May 25 to terminate officer Chris Lane's employment with the Knightstown Police Dept., effective immediately. At that time, Lane, who had been hired as a full-time officer in June 2006, still had five to six weeks left in his 15-week basic officer's training at the ILEA.
Under state law, officers employed by public law enforcement agencies like the KPD are not required to pay for the normal $6,235 tuition for their ILEA training. Hoping to help the terminated Lane avoid having to pay for the remainder of his training, the Knightstown Town Council approved a scheme during special meetings on June 4 and 15 intended to make it appear Lane was still on the town's payroll.
At the June 4 meeting, Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines had explained to the council that the town's normal practice was to pay departing employees any money owed for comp or "bank" time in a single payment. In the agreement signed with Lane on June 15, however, the council agreed to pay Lane $1,747.05 he was owed for comp time and "bank" time "in two (2) equal installments over the next two regular pay periods so that he may complete Academy training at no cost."
On June 19, four days after the town council approved their agreement with Lane, an ILEA official told The Banner the academy had not even been notified by Knightstown that Lane had been terminated more than three weeks earlier. This official also told The Banner that state statute and ILEA policy generally don't permit officers terminated from their jobs before their training is completed to finish the program. "Our policy is that they do have to be employed and be on the payroll," ILEA Deputy Director Mike Lindsay told The Banner on June 19. "Generally, if someone is fired, their employing agency notifies us and we pack them up and send them home."
While Lindsay told The Banner on June 19 that he was unsure what, if anything, the ILEA would do about this situation, he confirmed on Monday that Lane was not allowed to finish the training program. According to Lindsay, simply stretching out the length of time over which the town paid Lane what it owed him for comp time or "bank" time was not the same thing as Lane remaining on the town's payroll.
"I think what they did is they assumed that if he received any payment at all, that would be the same as being an employee, which is not the case," Lindsay said. "The main issue for us is that it said in the agreement … and in the minutes from the town board meeting that he was terminated on May 25. It sounded very much like a sham."
According to Lindsay, if the Knightstown Town Council wanted to ensure Lane was able to complete his training at the academy, they should not have terminated him before he was finished. "If they wanted to do this, it is so easy to do it in a different manner than what they did, without problem," he said. "They certainly could have said we're going to wait until he returns from the academy to take final action at that time."
To date, the four council members who voted to terminate Lane - council member Cort Swincher was unable, due to work obligations, to attend the afternoon meeting on May 25 - have not divulged the specific factual circumstances that prompted their action, which was not supported by then-Chief of Police Earl Patterson.
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