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Police Chief Vizzusi's status to be resolved by next week

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger reporter
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Whether Lincoln’s Police Chief Brian Vizzusi will return to work will be resolved by Friday or next week, according to City Manager Jim Estep. The police chief has been on paid leave since at least Jan. 14 and there have been rumors about his job status. The police chief will either be back at work, or if some reason he doesn’t return, an interim police chief may be brought in for awhile, according to Estep on Feb. 8. “What he’s doing right now is weighing his options,” Estep said. “He’s trying to decide what he wants to do.” When asked by The News Messenger on Feb. 8 about rumors that he fired Vizzusi, Estep said the police chief had not been terminated. Estep did say, however, that some of the rumors circulating around town “have an ounce of truth,” because “any rumor gets started because there is an ounce of truth. As for the rumor called into The News Messenger regarding a vote-of-no-confidence, Estep said that would be between Vizzusi and the Police Officers Association. The chief’s “relationship with (his) staff is tenuous, even under the best circumstances,” Estep said. “Trying to operate as police of chief during these difficult economic times is difficult,” Estep added. “For a whole variety of reasons, he and his staff are having difficulties.” Estep also said, “given the economic crisis, the department heads and city manager are typically held responsible.” Estep was referring to the police pay cuts and layoffs from last year. Vizzusi is a “great guy,” Estep said, and he’s “trying to protect his integrity.” “He’s done an excellent job for the city, and has done nothing illegal, unethical, immoral or unsafe,” said Estep. While on paid administrative leave, Estep said Vizzusi is being paid via “leave balances” he has accrued. When asked if the police department’s morale was down because of Vizzusi, acting police Chief Paul Shelgren had no comment. In other City Hall news, there will be a closed session during the Feb. 9 city council meeting. The two agenda items for the closed session are a “conference with legal counsel regarding potential litigation” and a “performance evaluation of the city manager.” Estep said the potential lawsuit “is not Brian (Vizzusi) related,” and the performance evaluation is the beginning of the process for his annual review, which will be in April. Estep said the City Council will administer his review, and they will have the help of a hired facilitator during the review process. On Friday, however, Mayor Tom Cosgrove said the performance evaluation is an “opportunity for the city manager to bring us up to date for any confidential issues.” “This isn’t an evaluation specifically of (his) performance, but it has to do what he does in the course of his job,” said Cosgrove. When asked if it’s normal to have a performance evaluation during a closed session, Cosgrove said yes, because there are “constraints and privacy issues we need to deal with. “The closed session lets you talk about confidential issues,” Cosgrove said. If any action is taken during Tuesday’s closed session for the potential litigation and Estep’s performance evaluation, Cosgrove said the City Council is required to report action taken after the closed session.