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Markleville police chief fired while on sick leave

MARKLEVILLE, Ind. (AP) – A central Indiana police chief’s week went from bad to worse when he was fired a day after being hurt on the job.

The Markleville Town Council voted 2-1 on Monday to terminate Chief Sam Weist’s contract effective at midnight Wednesday, leaving the Madison County community of about 400 residents dependent upon sheriff’s deputies for policing. That came after Madison Circuit Judge Thomas Newman Jr. denied a request by Weist’s attorney for a temporary restraining order seeking to prevent the council from taking any final action on the chief’s contract, The Herald Bulletin reported.

Weist was on sick leave at the time with back pain, a scraped nose and hand injuries he suffered Sunday afternoon in a scuffle with a 15-year-old. He had stopped to question three boys about reports of rocks being thrown through the windows of an abandoned building and was attacked when he stepped out of his car.

Weist, who had served as chief for 24 years with an annual salary of about $12,000, blamed his dismissal on a personal vendetta against him by Council President Landis Harper and Councilman Bob Fessler, who defeated Weist for a seat on the council in 2011.

“I love this town,” Weist said. “I have tons of supporters.”

Tension between the council and Weist arose in October when a resignation letter purportedly tendered by Weist was on the council meeting agenda. Weist later said he was shocked by the letter’s existence, noting he had no plans to step down. That meeting was vacated after the council discovered it could not legally hold meetings without a clerk/treasurer present.

Harper said that as far as he was concerned, the meeting in October never happened. “We voted not to renew the contract,” Harper said this week. “He’s done on Dec. 31.”

Weist said he has not had a contract with the town about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis since 2003 and was unaware the council planned to take action on his status until after the vote. Two months ago, he said, the council told him it supported him 100 percent.

“I have not heard a word from the council,” he said Monday.

There was no answer at the Markleville Police Department on Thursday. Calls placed there were forwarded to the home of Weist’s father, who was acting chief through Wednesday while Weist was on sick leave.

Harper said a search for a new police chief has not begun. Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said the sheriff’s department would respond to calls for assistance in Markleville during the interim.