FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- If some city council members get their way, Fort Wayne’s Public Safety Director would be out of a job. An ordinance was introduced Tuesday night at a Fort Wayne City Council meeting, to get rid of the position, which is held by former Police Chief Rusty York.
York was appointed Public Safety Director by Mayor Henry in January 2014. Now, Republican councilman want to get rid the position, which pays $160,000 a year, because they said the money could be used elsewhere.
Five Republicans overrode council’s two Democrats who voted against the proposal. This could be the first sign of a partisan divide in city council.
“It’s a cost saving measure,” said 1st District Councilman Paul Ensley. “This is a position that is very highly compensated. It would save the city about $160,000 a year to get rid of it and it’s really a position we don’t need. It’s not making us any safer.”
As the Public Safety Director, York works with the police and fire department, serving as a liaison between public safety officials and the city.
Ensley, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said that money should be used to hire more police officers or firefighters.
According to Mayor Henry, York’s position is necessary to keep law and order.
“There are numerous challenges on a daily basis with the fire department and police department,” said Henry. “It’s something that a mayor does not have the capability of addressing on a daily basis because of all the other responsibilities. To have someone in-between the combat staff and the Mayor’s office is an appropriate expenditure.”
Mayor Henry said the decision to get rid of York’s position could be motivated by politics. Rusty York lost to Jason Arp for the 4th District City Council Seat in last year’s election.
“One of the council members during his campaign said he wanted to get rid of position,” said Henry. “It just so happens that York was his opponent. My guess is, it’s his way of doing what he said he was going to do. But the time isn’t right. In fact it’s illegal.”
Mayor Henry is referring to a state law that requires salaries to be determined by November first of the previous year.
“They normally address this at budget time,” he said. “To address something mid-year after the budget has been approved, after salaries have been approved, after positions have been approved… my suggestion to them is wait until next October during budget hearings then make the motion. I don’t think it’s appropriate now, and I’ve told them so.”
But Ensley maintains the council members are within their rights to make the motion.
“There’s a state statute that prohibits city council from lowering a salary after it has already been approved for the year,” he said. “But what we are doing is different then that. We are actually [want to] eliminate the position entirely.”
Council could vote on the proposal as early as next week. If the measure is passed Mayor Henry does have the power to veto it. Members of council could override that.