Letter shows Griffith’s displeasure with former police chief, second in command
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent November 10, 2012 7:00PM
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:46AM
GRIFFITH — Allegations of “gross misconduct” are behind the demotion of Former Griffith Police Chief Ron Kottka and Patrol Lieutenant Michael Gulley, according to a letter sent from the Safety Board to the Town Council.
A letter the Post-Tribune obtained Friday through the Freedom of Information Act to Town Council President Glen Gaby, R-1st, dated Oct. 23, states that the board “reviewed allegations of gross misconduct within the Police Administration, including multiple complaints against Police Chief Kottka,” and that “legal counsel has advised that pursuant to the Safety Board rules and regulations, it is (its) duty to investigate such allegations.
“It is the desire of the Safety Board that the allegations be investigated immediately should Police Chief Kottka not be removed from his position,” the letter continued.
Kottka didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Gulley said Friday by email that he was unaware of any misconduct allegations against either of them. To his mind, the move came over differences in opinion on how to combat the town’s drastically increased crime rate.
Griffith has seen four murders and eight shootings in the past two years. Four of those shootings occurred within the last 34 days in the Mansards Apartment Complex.
Safety Board President Jim Marker, however, said that both Kottka and Gulley were spoken to several times — individually and in meetings and study sessions — before the board reached its conclusion to demote them back to their previous ranks of sergeant.
Marker declined, however, to discuss the allegations’ nature.
“Things were brought to our attention,” Marker said. “We’re confirming their validity and consulting with attorneys to see if they warrant further action.”
More than 100 people attended Thursday night’s Safety Board to address the demotion of Kottka, who’s been with the department for 37 years, and Gulley, who’s been with it for 33. Several of them claimed the two were unaware of the reasons for the demotions, saying the recommendation of taking the department a different direction wasn’t specific and that politics was behind the decision.
Marker gave the town’s officers who attended the Safety Board meeting an opportunity to speak without fear of reprisal from the administration, and while no one spoke specifically to the allegations, several attested to the department’s unwillingness to change. Sgt. Curt Burrow, a department member for 16 years, told the crowd officers had discussed the interior problems with its administration and former the Police Commission for a year and a half “over and over again, to no avail.”
“The crime has been going up and up. We’ve had people bring up ideas to solve this, or at least combat it, and nothing’s been taken under consideration,” he said.
Sgt. Todd Dawes said officers had suggested a drug unit to the adminstration, citing Lake Station, which is smaller than Griffith, as having one. The Police Administration brushed it off; two months later, Lake Station came to Griffith and led a huge drug bust.
“This department has to change. If it doesn’t, we’re going to get swallowed up by crime,” Dawes said.
Gulley said he respects the Safety Board and Town Council’s right to choose who they want to lead the department and won’t contest the demotion.
“I love being a street cop – it’s in my blood. Administration of a police department is much different,” Gulley said. “I welcome the change in my duties and will assist the new administration with a smooth transition.
“In the end we are all cops, trying to do the very best for the town of Griffith in whatever capacity we are given to serve.”