DYER | The Town Council removed its president from the top post Thursday night, two weeks after he argued a fellow councilman had a conflict of interest on an increase to police pension benefits.
Council President Jeff Dekker argued Councilman Joe Cinko should abstain from the vote because he also works for the Dyer Police Department.
At a special meeting Thursday night, the Dyer Town Council approved the ordinance, which increases police pension benefits by 17 percent, on a 3-2 vote on second reading.
After that vote passed, Cinko joined Councilwomen Debbie Astor and Mary Tanis in voting Dekker out of the president's job.
Councilwoman Connee Trepton voted against Dekker's removal, calling it "shameful." Dekker voted against it as well.
The council also split 3-2 in electing Astor, who is council liaison to the Metropolitan Police Commission, president. Astor will serve until the end of the year, when a new slate of officers will be appointed.
"It’s clearly very unpopular when I draw attention to the unethical behavior of some of my colleagues," Dekker said after the meeting. "If I have to be punished for that, so be it."
As an elected official, Dekker, a Republican, will remain as a member of the council. He has two years and three months left to serve in his first term in office. He had served as president since Jan. 1 of this year.
"I’ll continue to serve Dyer to the very best of my ability," he said.
Tanis, who made the motion to add Dekker’s removal to the agenda, said she has had issues with his leadership over the past several months. She cited what she said was a lack of discussion, strategic planning and face-to-face meetings between council members as the reason behind her wanting a new council president.
Astor said Dekker’s removal had nothing to do with his earlier statements.
Dekker and Cinko disagreed publicly when the ordinance came up for first reading Sept. 13. The ordinance increases the minimum pension for police officers by $4,716 to $31,949 annually, and police officers could receive a higher pension depending on years of service.
The town will pay an additional $48,318 for the increase, with current police officers paying $283 more per year in contributions.
Cinko reiterated his earlier position Thursday, stating that his participation in the votes was proper.
"I'm not benefiting a penny from this," he said.
But Dyer Metropolitan Police Commissioner Gerald Miller, who was in the audience Thursday, said the situation could give the appearance of impropriety.
Cinko will soon come up on the 20-year career mark, which makes him eligible for a pension. Moreover, he was voting on issues that affect his co-workers and fellow officers, Miller said.
Cinko countered he will not be pension-eligible until after age 52, no matter how long he's served as a police officer, and "who knows" how town ordinance will read once that happens.
"That’s a lot of 'ifs'" to base a decision on, said Miller, who also stated that he supports a raise in police pension benefits.