The legal battle over longtime Pulaski County Highway Superintendent Kenny Becker’s firing continues. He was reappointed by the county commissioners on January 7th, suspended with pay on January 22nd so allegations raised by a current and a former employee could be looked into and reinstated as highway manager on February 4th following an investigation by an outside consultant. Commissioner Larry Brady served as interim superintendent, and Becker was subsequently fired by the commissioners on March 4th. He’s since hired an attorney and filed a $500,000 notice of tort claim against the county commissioners for slander and defamation of character.
Pulaski County attorney Kevin Tankersley reluctantly released a copy of the consultant’s investigation report after being ordered to do so by the state Public Access Counselor’s office but redacted the names of Becker’s accusers. The new filing seeks to force the release of that information, noting “the Commissioners have failed to comply fully with the requirements of the Open Door Law.” It also states the names are necessary for possible legal action by Becker for slander and defamation of character.
A veteran Pulaski County Highway Department employee is the new county highway superintendent. Commissioners voted unanimously during last night’s regularly-scheduled meeting to hire Mark Fox. He’s worked the past nine years under Kenny Becker, who was fired by the commissioners last month after his controversial paid suspension in January and subsequent reinstatement as county highway manager under the supervision of commissioner and interim highway superintendent Larry Brady. Fox was one of four applicants interviewed by the commissioners. Before voting to hire him, commissioners also voted to change the work week for county highway employees to Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Brady voted against Commissioner Terry Young’s motion, leaving president Tracey Shorter to cast the tiebreaking vote.
Pulaski County Commissioners plan to interview candidates for the vacant highway superintendent and maintenance supervisor positions Friday. They ratified the terminations of highway manager Kenny Becker and maintenance supervisor Morry DeMarco during a tense public meeting last night. Both were fired during an executive session a week ago. That action has raised questions about whether open meetings law violations occurred. Formal complaints filed by outraged citizens are still pending before Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage. Additionally, Becker has filed a $500,000 notice of tort claim against the commissioners, county attorney and auditor. They were all served copies of the proceeding prior to the start of last night’s meeting and now have 90 days to respond. Stay tuned to WKVI throughout the day for more on this story, and watch for updates on our website at www.wkvi.com.
Pulaski County Commissioners plan to ratify the terminations of two employees during their meeting tonight. Questions have been raised about whether they committed a violation of the open meetings law last Monday when they terminated highway department manager Kenny Becker and maintenance supervisor Morry DeMarco during an executive session.
The state agency charged with making sure open meetings laws are followed is investigating a citizen complaint regarding recent actions by the Pulaski County Commissioners. Questions were first raised regarding their compliance with the law when no vote was taken to suspend then-county highway superintendent Kenny Becker and administrator Lin Morrison were suspended with pay. Becker was reinstated as county highway manager during the next commissioners meeting, at which time Commissioner Larry Brady was named interim superintendent. Becker was fired Monday during an executive session meeting for unspecified employee policy handbook violations. Dale Brewer with the Office of the Indiana Public Access Counselor says that action needs to be taken in a public meeting
The attorney for the former Pulaski County highway superintendent anticipates filing a notice of tort claim against the Pulaski County Commissioners, county attorney and auditor by the end of the week. Kenny Becker was fired Monday night during an executive session meeting for unspecified violations of the county personnel policy. The firing follows his paid suspension last month while commissioners looked into unspecified complaints of wrongdoing. Becker was reinstated as county highway manager after that investigation failed to find any criminal misdeeds. His attorney, Steven Bush of Valparaiso, says he plans to file as soon as Becker can come in and sign the necessary paperwork.
Pulaski County Commissioners voted to terminate two employees during an executive session meeting Monday night, according to sources close to the situation. Even though Indiana is an at-will employment state, a vote to terminate an employee who reports directly to the commissioners must be taken in an open meeting.
Embattled highway superintendent Kenny Becker and longtime maintenance supervisor Morry DeMarco were both fired over violations of the employee policy manual. Becker was suspended with pay last month in response to complaints about how the department is run from sources who have been allowed to remain anonymous. An investigation by the commissioners found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and Becker was reinstated as county highway manager on Feb. 4 under the supervision of commissioner Larry Brady.
“ Mr. Becker was commended on his role in helping with some of the positive changes at the Highway Department in the last three weeks. Mr. Becker was presented with new policy violations that have been observed by Commissioner Brady since his oversight. The issue of Mr. Becker’s Knowledge of the policy book and his observance of it were discussed. Commissioner Brady as acting department head informed Mr. Becker of his removal as general manager and termination of his employment with the county. This is in no way a negative reflection on Mr. Becker as a good moral person. Mr. Becker has proved to be a hard working individual with a good deal of specialized ability,” the release states.
Calls to the commissioners seeking comment were not immediately returned. They have previously refused to answer any questions and have directed all inquires be made in writing to county attorney Kevin Tankersley.
Former Pulaski County Highway Superintendent Kenny Becker says the employees who were leaving 15 minutes early each day were still on the clock even though they were no longer on the county’s property. He said they were driving snow plows home due to the threat of inclement weather, and they could not drive county vehicles on their own time due to liability concerns. County commissioners learned of the practice after Becker’s suspension last month and voted Monday to dock each of the employees 15 minutes of time in order to balance the books. Becker was reinstated to full pay eight days after his suspension but is working as “manager” of the department under the supervision of commissioner Larry Brady. Commissioners discussed the matter at length during Tuesday’s heated meeting. Brady said he’s checked with the county’s insurance agent, and the employees are covered even when they are not on the clock. He says the coverage follows the vehicle, and not the employee. Commissioners acknowledged their investigation found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The recent action by Pulaski County commissioners to strip the highway superintendent of his title and make him the manager has raised questions about the chain of command for road repairs. Commissioner Larry Brady is serving as acting superintendent until lingering policy questions are resolved. Meanwhile, Kenny Becker says a couple of roads need to be repaired, including a section of 200 North between 500 and 600 West on his property where a ditch is caving in. Becker told the commissioners if work isn’t done soon, the county may lose the entire road.
Information is slowly emerging about the recent suspensions with pay of longtime Pulaski County Highway Superintendent Kenny Becker and office manager Lin Morrison and subsequent investigation by the county commissioners. Both are back to work, although Becker has not been restored to the superintendent’s job. He’s handling the day-to-day duties and reporting to commissioner Larry Brady. Continue reading →
Information is slowly emerging about the recent suspensions with pay of longtime Pulaski County Highway Superintendent Kenny Becker and office manager Lin Morrison and subsequent investigation by the county commissioners. Both are back to work, although Becker has not been restored to the superintendent’s job. He’s handling the day-to-day duties and reporting to commissioner Larry Brady. The suspensions occurred after commissioners received reports of criminal activity, which county attorney Kevin Tankersley acknowledges were unfounded. Continue reading →
The attorney for two Pulaski County Highway employees who were suspended last month by the commissioners pending an investigation into unspecified complaints anticipates taking legal action against the county within days.
Former highway superintendent Kenny Becker and administrative assistant Lin Morrison have both retained Valparaiso attorney Steven Bush. He’s preparing a tort claim notice to be filed against the commissioners, county attorney and auditor for defamation of character, among other things. County officials have yet to provide any specifics about the nature of the investigation or give Becker or Morrison a copy of their findings. Bush says their stonewalling is “offensive” to his clients and to the dozens of people who packed the commissioners room and spilled over into the hallway prior to the Feb. 4 commissioners meeting.
Two Pulaski County officials have been suspended with pay, but neither the county commissioners nor their attorney have released any clue as to why. The county commissioners recently suspended Highway Superintendent Kenny Becker and secretary Lin Morrison with pay following an investigation, and have appointed Rex Cudworth as the interim superintendent.
The commissioners also ordered that the locks be changed at the county highway garage, but will not elaborate on what prompted the action. The investigation continues, however, as the pair is still suspended with pay. Personnel matters must be discussed in an executive session, but any vote to terminate an employee or suspend an employee without pay must be taken at a public meeting.
Pulaski County Highway Superintendent Kenny Becker told the county commissioners this week that since the department has received a new trailer, they would like to sell some other items they have gathering dust.
Becker said they would like to sell an old dump truck, the old trailer that they had replaced, a Dodge pickup truck with transmission problems, and a 1975 T500 that they have been unable to find parts for. He said he feels selling the items would be best, since there is no sense in the items just taking up space.