Township trustee to give back salary

Gary Coons
Published: .
Updated: .

Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - At a time when thousands of unemployed Hoosiers are struggling to find one job,  a local government worker is juggling two positions, and he's getting two paychecks. Taxpayers are funding both salaries. 13 Investigates double duty and allegations of back room deals.

On September 5th, Mayor Greg Ballard welcomed Perry Township Fire into the realm of city control. Three days later on September 8th, Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons, the driving force behind the merger, started a new job at the Department of Public Safety.

Critics charge the job is a reward, but say the deal fell short of giving Coons the top director's job he wanted.

Mayor Ballard tells 13 Investigates he never made any such promise for the top safety post.

"We just don't do that sort of thing. It's my decision," Ballard said. But the mayor also had good words for Coons. "He's a good man. Understand, he did a very courageous thing down there when as a trustee he said, 'Yes, I think my fire department has to go into IFD.'"

Coons says he did in fact apply for the public safety director post, but says the offer as a liaison in the department was too good to pass up. His duties: to negotiate future mergers, plan for special events including the Super Bowl, and acquire federal grants. It's a job that comes with an annual salary of $64,000.

13 Investigates asked Coons, "Was there a back room deal for you to move into this if you did XYZ or were you promised anything from the city?"

Coons responded, "I was never promised and there was never a back room deal."

The public safety job is in addition to the $51,000 he already earns providing poor relief as the Perry Township Trustee.

"What I do is, I go there in the evening or early morning and then I go in on weekends. I don't think I should earn a full time salary by no means," Coons said, explaining how he juggles the workload.

He now tells 13 Investigates if the GOP does not appoint a replacement, he will give his pay from the trustee's office back to the township.

The former two-time Firefighter of the Year suffers from Parkinson's disease, and takes great pride as the man who helped Indiana become the first state to recognize Parkinson's as a line of duty disability.

"I'm raising three young kids. I've got a beautiful wife and if I thought I did something unethical and my kids would be embarrassed by that, I'm sorry," Coons said, pausing to regain his composure. "I couldn't live with that."

Marion County GOP Chair Tom John wants Coons to stay put if he can handle it. He says other trustees have multiple jobs and calls the position non-lucrative at $51,000.

Still, Coons plans to turn the money over to the Perry Township Education Association and for cemetery restoration beginning Friday.

Mayor Ballard says he hopes to name a public safety director by year's end.