New chief of staff tasked with finding new public safety director

Safety of CitizensPoliticsBudgets and Budgeting

In his first interview since being named chief of staff for Mayor Greg Ballard, Ryan Vaughn said Wednesday that he will try to build on the synergy between the business and neighborhood communities and the mayor's office.

One of Vaughn's first challenges will be helping outgoing Public Safety Director Frank Straub out of an announced $15 million budget deficit that may be even worse in 2013. During the budget crisis, Straub's chief financial officer resigned.

"The CFO transition is not necessarily problematic for us," Vaughn told Fox59 News. "I've already spoken to Jim Steele, former controller of the city, former controller of the City Council. He's agreed to come in and get a handle on the budget and tell us exactly where we're at."

Vaughn will also be tasked with organizing a search committee to find a successor to Straub who resigned last week after sources said he was thwarted in a power struggle with police department leadership in an attempt to compile a list of misbehaving IMPD officers to justify his claims that law enforcement in Marion County has been corrupt for, "50 years."

"We anticipate outgoing Director Straub will be part of this process," said Vaughn. "We definitely want to work to include the Council in this process. We're going to need their approval and we're going to need their buy-in on a philosophy that takes over leadership there. Just to quickly identify people who would be part of this process: certainly the Council, certainly the current leadership and maybe the past leadership as well.

"Without a doubt community input and community leadership input is going to be an important part of this process, and you have to have buy-in from the community and you have to have buy-in from leadership at all the political levels, be it legislative and executive branch and judicial as well and there's a lot of people who have a stake in providing public safety in Marion County including the prosecutor and the sheriff and a variety of different offices and we want to make sure they all have a part in what we're doing as we move forward."

Also retaining a role in moving IMPD and the Department of Public Safety beyond the current crisis is interim Police Chief Rick Hite who was named to the position March 17 after Chief Paul Ciesielski stepped down following the mishandling of a vial of blood evidence in the David Bisard case.

"Rick has the full confidence of the mayor as the acting chief," said Vaughn, who says a new public safety director will be chosen before the chief's position is considered.

"That was actually part of the conversation I had with the director when he indicated he wanted to resign was that he thought it was appropriate for whatever public safety director was going to make a long term commitment to the city be part of the conversation when it comes to selecting the new chief."

Hite has been meeting quietly behind the scenes with officers in an attempt to rebuild morale after the upheaval of the past two weeks. While Deputy Chief Val Cunningham has returned to work after being placed on administrative leave following the Bisard blood vial investigation, the IMPD Merit Board has certified the latest promotions list which reportedly will show greater advancements and scores by minority officers than in the past.

Thursday at 5 p.m., Fox59 News will present the David Bisard case in a way you've never heard before: the voice of the IMPD officer himself, seconds after the crash that claimed the life of a motorcyclist and injured two others on August 6, 2010. "The Bisard Disptach Tapes" airs exclusively Thursday on Fox59 News Live at Five.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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