Turner offered secret deal

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Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - It's no secret Indianapolis is in the midst of a public safety shake-up. Crime is rising, jails are full and local law enforcement agencies are merging. 13 Investigates uncovers the politics behind the ouster of a prominent public safety official.

Citywide, violent crime is up 12 percent from 2004 to 2005. Earlier this year saw the brutal murders of seven family members in their home. While forces unite on the streets, behind the scenes are internal blows at the top.

Longtime Public Safety Director Robert Turner was forced out. "My commitment was to public...safety. Protecting the public. That's all I do; that's all I want to do. I'm not a politician, don't want to be one," he said. "I have never requested a leave of absence."

13 Investigates has uncovered in the midst of all of this secret offers to leverage protection - a lucrative deal that could have kept the in-fighting quiet. It was a deal carved out of one of the biggest city projects in history: the Midfield Terminal.

"It was clear that there was a job there for him if he wanted it," said Steve Campbell, deputy mayor.

A job for Bob Turner at the new Indianapolis Airport. But not just any job. It's described as the Director of Public Safety. "Now is the time where you have the opportunity to think about issues - public safety issues before the fact," said Campbell.

Under the plan, Turner would oversee the security of the construction site, supervising himself. There would be no staff, but a a similar title and paycheck expected to exceed the $98,000 he earned in the city's top public safety post.

"The salary probably would have been in the six figures because it's an important job," said Campbell.

Airline fees, not tax dollars, would cover the salary. 13 Investigates asked the director of the Midfield Terminal Project about the offer.

"I know about the position," said John Kish, Midfield Project director.

But Kish says that's about all he knows. He never spoke to Turner about a security director's job. "I have no comment on that. I have no knowledge of that," he said.

Kish says a security director description was devised two years ago but the job has never been filled. 13 Investigates asked Kish whether the position is posted anywhere. "We don't have job postings at the Midfield Project," Kish replied.

So how did this offer come about? It grew out of feud between then Public Safety Director Turner and the Mayor's Public Safety Advisor Jerry McCory, who has no supervisory authority.

In internal memos obtained by Eyewitness News, the mayor's chief of staff directs Turner and his chiefs to "contact McCory for "day to day contact" with the mayor's office.

Turner took offense, citing a break in the chain of command set by county ordinance. Two weeks later, he served notice.

In a February 28th resignation letter to Mayor Peterson, Turner wrote, "You and I have a fundamental difference of opinion...by which effective public safety services may be delivered to our citizens."

But the resignation was pushed aside when the mayor intervened. Weeks later, Turner was offered the airport deal but turned it down. His attorney Ginny Maxwell explained why.

"He didn't understand it was this way or the highway," Maxwell said.

13 Investigates asked Deputy Mayor Campbell: "Some folks say this is was a throw-away job to buy cooperation with this administration. What's your response to that?"

"Absolutely not," Campbell replied. "This was an offer from the mayor from the airport to help out someone who we thought had done a really good job."

But Campbell now confirms that on May 24th, Turner was ordered to take a leave of absence by the mayor's chief of staff, John Dillon. Turner continued working until June 2nd, the day after the city's worst mass slayings. Turner recalls what happened on a local radio show.

"John Dillon walked in my office and advised me that I was on leave and that I was...that I should leave my office," said Turner.

Ten days later, Turner resigned for the second time. Out: two public safety director positions, one overseeing the protection of nearly a million people and the other a safety net to lessen the fall from the top.

Bob Turner is now working in the white collar crime unit under former Police Chief Jerry Barker. As for that public safety director job at the Midfield Terminal, Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell says it's entirely possible it will remain unfilled. He says those midfield jobs don't have to be advertised. 13 Investigates is awaiting word from city legal on that.

Related links
Public safety director's leave of absence raises questions
Safety Director Robert Turner on leave