Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor Town marshall Price retiring

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There were tears and a standing ovation as nearly 10-year Burns Harbor town marshal Jerry Price announced his retirement effective Jan. 31.

Town officials and residents alike took turns at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting praising Price for his dedication to the community since hiring on in 1983. Price later said he doesn’t plan to continue in law enforcement and will take full advantage of retirement.

“I’ll do whatever I want to do. It’s time for me to start my good years. It’s time for the young guys.”

His announcement came after the Town Council reappointed for 2012 the current department heads, including Price, pending any changes by the incoming Town Council after Jan. 1.

It also came after the Town Council agreed to have a special meeting Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. to transfer $44,000 from the Police Department budget for a negotiated settlement payable to Frank McAllister, who sued Price over his treatment of the diabetic during a traffic arrest March 1, 2006. McAllister had sought $1 million alleging excessive force. Oct. 28 a federal jury awarded him $2,000 for medical expenses but no punitive damages.

The $44,000 is reimbursement for McAllister’s legal expenses, said town attorney Bob Welsh, which by law are eligible up to $250,000 for parties who prevail. The payout is not covered under the town’s liability insurance policy. McAllister originally wanted $62,500.

Said Welsh, “If we go before a judge on a hearing, it’s possible the judge would award less than what we’re agreeing to settle for. He also could award much higher than the plaintiff is willing to take. How much risk do you want to take --- $250,000 would be catastrophic. A settlement like this covers your risk.”

The agreement stipulates that in exchange for the $44,000 McAllister will dismiss all appeals of the jury award and release town elected/appointed officials and employees from all liability known and unknown, now and in the future, related to his arrest.

Vote on the motion to resolve the matter was 4-0 with councilman Louis Bain absent. Welsh discussed the proposed settlement with the council at a closed executive session last week.

Price faces allegations that he improperly voted Nov. 8 in the Burns Harbor Westchester 11 precinct when he resides on a parcel within the Portage city limits. Monday in court on a separate matter, Price testified his address is 1184 N. Salt Creek Rd. in Burns Harbor.

Price previously told The Times of Northwest Indiana that he leases three contiguous lots, including the vacant one in Burns Harbor, and he hasn’t broken any laws. The Porter County Election Board has been asked by Burns Harbor clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan to investigate the matter.

But it was Price’s devotion to the town and its people that took center stage Wednesday.

Resident Beverly Sutton tearfully told how Price would stop and hug her father, incapacitated from several strokes, and did wellness checks for her mother. “It’s little things like that that makes a policeman a police chief. This town owes him a deep debt; he’s just a swell guy.”

Councilman Mike Perrine, a former town marshal himself, said he and Price worked as road officers years ago. “I don’t know of anyone who has a genuine love of this community like he does. He gave his heart to this town.” Perrine hugged the outgoing marshal, both overcome with emotion.

Councilman Jim McGee said Price was able to elevate and motivate the Police Department. “The standard we have now, I was told we couldn’t have it, but we do and we’ll continue to go up.”

Council member Cliff Fleming said ever since he’s lived here “Jerry’s been a neighbor to the entire town.” Fleming recounted how Price positively interacted with a group of teenagers giving them a different view of law enforcement.

Toni Biancardi, who like Fleming is retiring from the council after one term, said of Price, “He watched me grow up from the age of 10 and my kids now.”

Town police officer Craig Barnes thanked Price. “He spent half his life here and he dedicated his whole life basically to this town.” Price himself earlier recalled how he led the department following the Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy when the town had nothing.

Fire chief Bill Arney said Price helped foster an improved relationship with the Fire Department leading to good cooperation now. Resident Rosemary Zimmerman told the marshal he will be missed. “You’re the kind of person you don’t forget.”

According to Price, “I’ve been here a long time and I’m getting pretty worn out. I’ve known four generations of a lot of families. It’s time for me to get on with the rest of my life.”

The council authorized Jordan to advertise for the position of a full-time police officer, a new full-time Street/Sanitation employee and a contracted town engineer. It was announced Hesham Kahlil of Global Engineering and Surveying has resigned.

The council set a special meeting for 2 p.m. Jan. 1 for a swearing-in ceremony. Recently-elected members Jeff Freeze, Greg Miller and Gene Weibl join Perrine and McGee on the council. Reorganization including appointments likely won’t take place until the Jan. 11 regular meeting. Applications still are being accepted from citizens seeking seats on boards and commissions.


Posted 12/15/2011