MARK KIESLING: Another sheriff's officer back in the saddle

2012-10-10T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: Another sheriff's officer back in the saddle nwitimes.com
October 10, 2012 12:00 am

Tuesday afternoon was Day One back on the job after more than 500 paid days off for Lake County Sheriff's Police Lt. Mike Reilly.

Sheriff John Buncich notified Reilly and Capt. Marco Kuyachich, who was suspended along with Reilly and four others May 24, 2011, it was time to get back to work.

Both men had to take a departmental physical; Reilly passed while Buncich is awaiting the results from tests on Kuyachich.

"We need help in patrol," the sheriff said of Reilly. "He'll start there."

Reilly and Kuyachich were named in June 2011 as being involved, through sins of omission or commission, in a scheme to buy automatic weapons and other stuff generally unavailable to the public (laser sights) using sheriff's department stationery.

Sound like something out of Hollywood? Well, three officers of the department pleaded guilty to tax fraud and conspiracy in September 2011, the same month in which they were indicted.

It could be a way to get Kuyachich, who had a well-reported heart problem, off the force without having to resort to firing him.

Why? Well, for starters, Kuyachich was chief of police under former Sheriff Roy Dominguez.

When Dominguez could not run because of term limits and Buncich had publicly declared his interest, Dominguez backed Kuyachich to succeed him.

The fact they have been on paid (yes, paid) administrative leave has irritated some members of the department, who note Kuyachich and Reilly went off the job May 24, 2011.

As of Oct. 9, that's 504 days off with pay -- a conservative $100,000 a year for doing zilch.

OK, let's say I understand Buncich's reasoning, and I do to an extent. If they'd taken the days as unpaid, the county would be required to fork over all their salary plus in the event they are never indicted.

But they must have been pretty sure he had done nothing wrong when they put the sixth man allegedly involved back on the street in October 2011. Now here we are a year later.

Kuyachich and Reilly are $100,000 richer and what do we have to show for it? No indictments and no police work.

Please. Either indict these guys or set them free and offer a public apology for having dragged their name through the mud.

At least it now looks like we've got a little movement.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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