Goshen council approves salaries for controversial police restructuring

Goshen, Ind. Some changes in administration are causing a shakeup at the Goshen Police Department.

At a special year-end meeting Monday, the common council unanimously approved the salaries for two new positions – Division Chief of Patrol and Division Chief of Investigations.

The new jobs won’t require any additional funding; one of two assistant chief positions is being eliminated and a detective captain job that’s vacant won’t be filled.

In a memo to the council, Chief Wade Branson said the changes will save the department money because both positions will be paid a salary of $59,637.50. The detective captain job that’s being eliminated is hourly, with opportunities for overtime.

Branson will appoint people to the new division chief roles.

“I believe the Chief of Police should have the authority to appoint those positions that are upper-level policy-making positions,” he said.

But, some working in the police department disagree, saying tested positions ensure the strongest candidate is selected for a job.

Three spoke out against the proposed restructuring at Monday night’s meeting.

“I think when you have a tested position in the police department, people have the drive to do a good job and to advance themselves by doing that,” said Detective Stephen Priem. “When you have appointed positions, all you need is an in with whoever's in power.”

Branson says he’s considering two people for each opening. Mayor Allan Kauffman says he’s aware one of those people is Branson’s relative.

Kauffman says Branson wouldn’t be violating Indiana’s nepotism laws if he appoints someone he’s related to as a division chief because the relative already works for the department and wouldn’t be directly supervised by Branson.

“He has to know what the repercussions are if he appoints somebody that’s related to him,” Kauffman said. “And, I trust that he's not going to appoint someone that's related to him if he's not the right person that Wade thinks can do the job.”

At one point during the meeting, councilman Everett Thomas told Branson he’d heard from some officers who were concerned with possible nepotism in the department.

“I didn't know we were talking about nepotism here,” Branson said.

Several members of the police department asked the council to postpone Monday’s vote so there could be more discussion on the proposal. Many didn’t know the changes were being considered until they heard about them from the media the day of the meeting.

“Really, since we just learned about it in the paper today, none of the police department was really familiar with what was taking place,” said Mark Huser.

Despite the requests to table the issue, the council went ahead with a vote because the Board of Public Works already approved the new positions earlier in the day. The council just had to approve the maneuvering of funds within the department’s budget to pay the new division chiefs.

Branson declined an interview with NewsCenter 16 after Monday’s meeting, saying all the information needed was in the public record.

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