County official on leave after gun incident

2012-05-03T07:00:00Z 2012-05-03T17:25:48Z County official on leave after gun incidentBy Bill Dolan, (219) 662-5328

CROWN POINT | A Lake County grand jury will investigate whether a county government official should be charged with an alleged weapons violation.

Cpl. Gabrielle King, a spokeswoman for the Gary Police Department, said Tramel Raggs, a special assistant to the County Board of Commissioners and appointee to the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, was released Wednesday from their lockup.

She said officers conferred with the county prosecutor's office, which will present evidence to a grand jury at a later date.

Police arrested Raggs on Monday night following a confrontation in which a 37-year-old man alleges Raggs pointed a loaded gun at him as the two were driving in downtown Gary.

Lake County Attorney John Dull said Wednesday county commissioners granted Raggs a seven-day leave of absence. Dull said Raggs will be paid only for any three of the leave days he has accrued.

Dull and commissioners declined to comment further on his future employment with the county.

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, called Tuesday for commissioners to suspend Raggs without pay pending a review of the matter for possible termination. Commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and Fran DuPey, D-Hammond, said Tuesday they are awaiting further details of the matter. Allen said Tuesday he would be reluctant to act until a charge is filed.

Commissioners hired Raggs last year as a $59,312-a-year assistant despite criticism the job was unnecessary and other county employees were never given a fair chance to compete for it.

Raggs remains a member in good standing of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, according to Airport Interim Director Steve Landry.

Lake County Commissioners also Wednesday postponed a vote on whether to settle a $7 million Lake County Jail overcrowding lawsuit.

It arises from a 2008 class-action lawsuit filed against former Sheriff Roy Dominguez on behalf of jail inmates who complained of dangerous overcrowding in a temporary holding cell that resulted in outbreaks of infectious disease and fights over food.

Seven inmate suicides during the same period prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice that concluded the jail's mental health and medical care programs and its sanitary and living conditions fell short of federal standards.

Scheub refused last month to sign the agreement until the former sheriff took responsibility for neglect of the jail.

Dominguez, who is challenging Scheub's re-election Tuesday in the primary, accused Scheub of political grandstanding that threatened the county with an even costlier jury verdict if the settlement were rejected.

Dull said commissioners now want to wait until after the results of an inspection this week by U.S. Department of Justice officials on whether the jail's medical and mental health services have resolved dozens of deficiencies noted in earlier inspections.

Dull said commissioners will return to the settlement issue at their next regular meeting, which is eight days after the primary.

Times staff writer Keith Benman contributed to this story.

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