HAMMOND — The city administration said City Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, insulted and threatened city police and ambulance workers who rescued him from a medical emergency last weekend.
Hammond Fire Chief Jeffery C. Smith said this week Higgs accused his men of stealing $200 from Higgs' family house and implied he would punish disrespectful firefighters financially.
"He told the battalion chief he didn't like the way he was talked to, and he has a vote on the fire department's budget. I'm livid," Smith said.
"The whole thing is pretty outrageous," Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. "I have been mayor 15 years, and I have never heard anybody from the public accuse police or firemen of stealing money on a call. The fact that a councilman is, is preposterous. Hammond police and fire are top-notch, wonderful people."
Higgs denies accusing police and firefighters of any wrongdoing or using his position on the city council to threaten retaliation.
"That is not what happened. I simply went over to ask what happened to the money," Higgs said.
Hammond police Lt. Steven Kellogg said his department is conducting an internal investigation into the matter and declined comment.
"We are investigating it like any claim that is made," McDermott said. "I've heard the police body cam (video recordings) exonerates everybody.
"Him talking about approving their budget was completely an inappropriate mixing of policy with personal business. That is the kind of stuff that gets the attention of higher authorities."
The mayor, fire chief and a Hammond Police report The Times obtained indicate the incident began about 8 a.m. Saturday when a member of Higgs' family called a city ambulance to his home in the 1100 block of Morris Street in Hammond's 3rd District.
"A family member had called, concerned about his safety," McDermott confirmed. "Higgs was having a medical emergency. When they were trying to get him to go into the ambulance, he became combative.
"The fire department called for police backup and thankfully they had body cams, and between the police and firefighters present, Councilman Higgs was strapped onto a gurney and loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital."
Allegations of missing money
Smith said about 2 p.m. that same day, he received a text message from the police chief that Higgs had reported $200 missing from his house.
"Police told him they had body cameras on all the time, they didn't have his money, so Higgs said, 'Then the firemen must have done it,'" Smith said.
Higgs arrived at the central fire station in the 6100 block of Calumet Avenue shortly afterward.
"He flat-out asked if they took his $200 from a kitchen table. I have memos from all five guys what transpired, and that they didn't take his money," Smith said.
In a police report, Hammond Fire Battalion Chief Steven Brezinski said Higgs "wanted to know what paramedic took money from his home earlier in the morning. Brezinski explained that none of his paramedics took the money, and he was to file a police report if he believed so.
"(Higgs) also told Brezinski that he did not like the way (firefighter Casey) McClusky spoke to him and informed (Brezinski) that he approved the budgets for the fire department."
Higgs said, "I never accused anybody. I just said $200 came up missing. I asked them if they knew what happened."
Higgs said he doesn't believe police or fire department employees stole his money but that it is still missing.
"My mom has an eye condition, so maybe she misplaced it," Higgs said.
Higgs has been a Democratic precinct committeeman and on local government payrolls for many years. He was a part-time poor relief coordinator for the North Township Trustee's office in 2003 and an administrator in the Lake County Clerk's office from 2004 until 2013.
He was an office manager for former Sheriff John Buncich in 2014 and has been a maintenance engineer in the Hammond county courthouse up to the present. He currently earns $29,000 a year in that position and makes $30,600 as a Hammond city councilman.
McDermott and Higgs have been at odds for much of that time, but voters have elected Higgs to serve the city's 3rd District on the City Council since 2003.