Porter County officials weighing options on filling public safety role
Whatever the Porter County Board of Commissioners decides to do with the position of public safety executive director now that Michael Brickner is resigning, the County Council wants to be kept in the loop.
Councilman Jeff Larson, R-at large, asked Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, what commissioners plan on doing with Brickner’s “large” salary at the Dec. 19 meeting.
The salary is $97,344 for the coming year, according to Auditor Vicki Urbanik.
Biggs said commissioners received Brickner’s resignation, effective Jan. 31, on Dec. 17 after he held the post for about 16 months. Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at large, said commissioners knew about it earlier.
With Commissioners President Jeff Good, RCenter, out of the office and the holidays, commissioners will have to wait to find time to hold an executive session, Biggs said.
“Before you make a deci- sion to replace it, come to us to fund it,” Whitten said, adding the council might not do it, “because maybe we don’t like the structure and the other guys can do it.”
Whitten was referring to Lance Bella, director of the Emergency Management Agency, and Rob Lanschweerdt, director of Porter County Central Communications, or 911.
Whitten said commissioners first said they were hiring a 911 director and then changed direction when they hired Brickner, Valparaiso’s former police chief, who took the job on Aug. 21, 2017.
Brickner’s salary, said Larson and Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, could be distributed to increase pay for dispatchers and others in the department.
Biggs said even if commissioners don’t fill the director’s post, the department will still need an assistant director.
Whitten said whatever structure commissioners decide to move forward with they should be in contact with the council.
In a letter dated Dec. 17 and provided to the PostTribune by Scott McClure, the county attorney, Brickner said the past 16 months “have come with many challenges that transitioned into opportunities. I leave with satisfaction in knowing that our Porter County EMA now operates under strong, competent leadership and is a model within our State. Our Porter County 911 Center now has a solid foundation to move forward and agency credibility has been restored.”
Commissioners haven’t decided how and when they will fill the post, McClure said. Biggs said at the time they will want to hear from Bella and Lanschweerdt.
“It may not be necessary at this point,” Biggs said then.
Brickner had been tasked with rectifying problems the county had been having for a number of years with central communications, Biggs has said.
Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.