Former Griffith police chief demands hearing

2013-05-24T19:15:00Z 2013-06-21T15:24:07Z Former Griffith police chief demands hearingCharles F. Haber Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 24, 2013 7:15 pm  • 

GRIFFITH | Saying that former Police Chief Ronald Kottka wants a chance to face his accusers, his attorney is demanding a hearing with the Griffith Safety Board.

Attorney Christopher Cooper, representing Kottka, said he emailed a letter to the Safety Board and also sent it through the U.S. Post Office on Thursday.

"My client wants a hearing," because he is entitled to due process, Cooper said Friday.

Kottka, who served the department for more than 30 years, was demoted by the Town Council in November on a recommendation by the Safety Board.

"The Safety Board had reviewed allegations of gross misconduct within the police administration, including multiple complaints against Police Chief Kottka," the Safety Board stated in a letter to the council.

Earlier this month the council accepted Kottka's retirement.

"Chief Kottka was forced into retirement," Cooper said.

Cooper said the town never specified what kind of infractions were supposedly committed and Kottka wants to set the record straight and restore his reputation.

"He has the right to defend against misconduct allegations (but) we don't know what that misconduct is," he said.

Cooper said the hearing is required by state law and that it must be at a public meeting.

"When people make those kind of statements, they must be prepared to defend them," he said.

In his letter, Cooper advised the Safety Board that he is prepared to withdraw Kottka's retirement if a hearing is not granted.

If a hearing is denied, "we'll go to federal court," he said.

Cooper acknowledged that any police chief serves at the pleasure of the governing body and that the current situation would not exist if the council had simply removed Kottka without any explanation.

"Had they not disparaged his name, things would be different," Cooper said.

But by making damaging accusations without specifying them, there was no basis for dismissing him, Cooper said.

Late Friday, Griffith Town Attorney Robert Schwerd released a statement in response to the Cooper's letter.

"All of the allegations in the demand are categorically denied as unsubstantiated and untrue," Schwerd said in the statement.

The statement also said Kottka was reassigned to the position of detective so the council could help the Police Department move in a new direction.

"The Town Council’s action was completely legal and appropriate pursuant to Indiana Code 36-8-3-4(m)," Schwerd said.

He also listed many accomplishments that have been made by the new administration in terms of crime prevention and law enforcement.

Schwerd concluded the statement by saying, "The Town of Griffith is pleased with the new direction of its Police Department and stands by the decision of the Town Council on November 5, 2012. This decision, while not an easy one, has proved to be good for the citizens of the town of Griffith."

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