The police department says business must go on. Commissioners say timing is everything.
For nearly two months, Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse has been on administrative leave while awaiting the results of an investigation into allegations she created a hostile work environment. While she's been away, some changes have been made.
With the authorization of city manager Matt Kline, interim police Chief Charlie Sams has shifted four key leadership positions at the department.
Lt. Chris Hofacker -- who wrote an e-mail to everyone within the police department early on in Nuesse's leave reminding officers that she was still the chief -- will move from patrol division commander to training coordinator for the department. Lt. Max Jarrett will move from being in charge of a patrol shift to patrol division commander. Lt. Mike Campbell will move from the detective's bureau to head a patrol shift. Detective Sgt. John Orzech will be the senior supervisor in the detective bureau.
Some city commissioners and Nuesse's attorney question why the changes were made now -- and by an interim police chief while the chief's on leave. They call it peculiar timing.
"It's just like it gets crazier and crazier down there ... it's like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," said attorney K. Ronald Bailey, suggesting that the reshuffling at the police department indicates a decision on Nuesse's fate may already have been made. "You just wonder who's in charge down there ... hopefully we'll find out soon."
Sams said the changes were necessary for the understaffed department to continue functioning and "responding to the needs of citizens."
"We had some areas of concern," he said. "For instance we had nobody assigned to work on our training program. We were behind on a number of training issues and it was an area that definitely needed to get addressed."
Sams said during weekly meetings, the command staff brought up issues of concern and ideas for possible changes. He said the moves are all lateral and nobody was demoted or disciplined.
"One of the things I've heard is that we need more Indians and less chiefs and so I'm getting more Indians on the road," Sams said. "Having worked with Chief Nuesse, I think if she had been in those staff meetings and heard the areas of concern brought up, that she would have taken steps to have those areas addressed also."
Kline said he's going on the recommendations of Sams and the rest of the command staff.
"It doesn't have anything to do with Nuesse," he said.
Kline said that this shifting of responsibilities does not mean he has made a decision regarding Nuesse's future.
"Not at all," he said. "Not even close."
Commission vice president Craig Stahl said Thursday he had not heard of any changes within the department.
"In my mind, now would not be the appropriate time to make any changes, but I have not heard of any changes," he said.
Commission president Dennis Murray Jr. said it is not unusual for the commissioners to be notified of such decisions after the fact, saying it's up to the city manager and department head.
Commissioner Dave Waddington said the situation regarding the police department has already caused stress and concern in the community. He's disappointed with the situation, saying timing is everything.
"I'm not questioning Charlie Sams or the city manager ... it just comes down to the whole timing of it," Waddington said. "We need to build trust back with the residents."
Commissioner Brett Fuqua, liaison to the police department, said it is the responsibility of the department leadership to make such decisions.
"Regardless of what's going on with Chief Nuesse or whomever else, it's still business as usual," he said. "They can't shut down operations."
Staff reporter Laura Collins contributed to this report.