LAPEL, IN - In what could be the surprise story of January the new Town Council led by a motion from Lindsay Washmuth voted to fire Robert Kowalski and appoint Captain Mike Barnes as interim Police Chief.
Kowalski was previously appointed Police Chief at a meeting in December 2015 by the 2015 Town Council. In both cases this is a temporary position to run until April 1st to allow the Town Council to find a permanent replacement for the now retired Dennis Molina.
No specific reasons were given for this decision. No one called into question the capabilities of either candidate.
Dave Taylor, Lindsay Washmuth and Mike Cates voted YES with Deb Wainscott and Tony Pearson voting NO to appointing Mike Barnes and the motion passed.
Mike Cates commented that "When I ran for Town Council I did so with integrity to serve the people" ... "there was an overwhelming response to the decision made in 2015".
Clay Parkison asked the Town Council where they stood in the process of selecting a new Chief.
It was suggested that the Town Council form a list of standard questions to ask each candidate although this idea was largely rejected on the grounds that each candidate may be vastly different and it may not be the best course of action.
There will be an executive meeting after January 31st to start reviewing applications.
Deb Wainscott commented "Nowhere does it say you are guaranteed a job because you have been here for any length of time." and that we are following the proper diplomatic way to hire a police chief.
She added that "This board needs to make a decision with an open mind. To make the best decision for the Town of Lapel"
Finally she noted that if people are unhappy with any of the decisions of the Town Council members they are free to run for office to help make the Town a better place.
At the close of the meeting Chief Kowalski asked what position that left him in now he was fired and the Council verbally agreed that he was still a reserve / part time officer and had not been fired from the Police Department but simply removed as Chief of Police.
After the meeting had ended Kowalski commented privately to me that he will be remembered as the shortest serving Chief of Police in the Town's history.