Council tables effort to eliminate Public Safety Director position

Fort Wayne City Council, File

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The Public Safety Director position is safe, for now.

Last week, an ordinance was introduced that, if passed, would eliminate the city’s Public Safety Director position, which is currently held by former police chief Rusty York at a salary of $160,000. At-Large Councilman John Crawford and 1st District Councilman Paul Ensley sponsored the ordinance. Crawford said the goal was to save taxpayers money; Ensley believed the saved dollars could be rerouted to hire more police officers or firefighters.

“We would save half a year’s salary,” Crawford said. “In other words if his salary is $160,000 we’d save $80,000 so that $80,000 goes into the unallocated cash balance so that we have that to spend in next year’s budget. We could hire two police officers with that.”

Instead, the city will have a Public Safety Director. The City Council voted 6-3 to table Ensley and Crawford’s measure on Tuesday night.

The vote avoids what appeared to be an inevitable court battle between the city and the council.

When the measure was introduced last week, Mayor Henry indicated that council members don’t have the legal authority to enact it. City Council’s attorney, though, disagreed and said council could move to eliminate the position.

Crawford, himself, made the motion to table the idea Tuesday night.

Public Safety Director Rusty York watches the Fort Wayne City Council debate his future.
Public Safety Director Rusty York watches the Fort Wayne City Council debate his future.

“Our council attorney made a good argument we could. They made a good argument we couldn’t, but it wasn’t worth going to court over,” Crawford said.

Crawford said if a lawsuit would have been filed and the issue went to court by the time it wrapped up it would already be budget time when council could cut the position. Ultimately the council voted and the measure was tabled, but Ensley wanted to keep going with the idea.

“I was disappointed that it was tabled,” Ensley said.

York’s position might be safe for now, but both Crawford and Ensley are confident that come 2017, Fort Wayne won’t have a Public Safety Director.

“I would be very surprised if the mayor even included it in the 2017 budget,” Ensley said.

“We will cut the position in budget time, so it’s going away in 2017,” Crawford said.

As public safety director, former police chief York is a liaison between the mayor and all the public safety departments. Some previous administrations have had the position, others haven’t.

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