MARK KIESLING: You don't always get what you pay for

2012-07-02T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: You don't always get what you pay for nwitimes.com
July 02, 2012 12:00 am

It's just another case of your tax dollars at work.

For the past 13 months, taxpayers in Lake County have been paying two of the top-ranking officials in the Lake County Sheriff's police to do nothing.

Yep. That's right. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Capt. Marco Kuyachich and Lt. Mike Reilly have been on administrative leave for 13 months, suspended because of their alleged involvement with the sale of machine guns through the department to private individuals.

Three lower-ranking officers have already pleaded guilty to the crime, but have yet to be sentenced.

But because Kuyachich and Reilly have not been charged, they get to sit at home on 13 months of what is essentially a paid vacation.

Kuyachich makes $50,456 a year. Reilly makes $49,057 a year. Do the math and what do you come up with?

"You could have hired three patrol officers for that money," said Sheriff John Buncich, who inherited this situation from the previous administration.

Buncich has the authority either to bring them back to work in non-police capacities -- no gun, no badge -- or to suspend them without pay.

But.

Under state law, he can suspend them without pay for only 15 days, so that is sort of useless.

And he said he does not want them back inside departmental walls, even to mop floors. "I'm not going to do this at this time," he said. "I'd prefer they were not here. I want to see how this all washes out.

"Frustrating? It's very frustrating," he said. "Tell me about it. We could have put three new police officers on the street for what we have been paying these two individuals."

There is a third alternative. The sheriff's merit board could hold a hearing in which a decision to suspend the officers without pay could be made.

But Buncich said his lawyer and the merit board lawyer concurred that without charges filed against the officers, there is little recourse.

"I'm between a rock and a hard place," Buncich said. "Until I am clear, I am not going to put any closure on this."

What is taking so long? Either file charges against Kuyachich or Reilly or both or put them back to work. We need more police, not fewer.

A spokesperson with the U.S attorney's office, which has indicted three other officers in connection with these allegations -- all three pleaded guilty -- was not available Friday for comment on the status of the case against Kuyachich and Reilly.

Call me crazy if you want to. But I think if we are paying for police work, we should be getting police work.

And we are paying. But we are not getting.

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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