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Vizzusi not police chief anymore

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Brian Vizzusi is no longer Lincoln’s police chief, according to a press release from City Manager Jim Estep on Feb. 18. “The personnel decisions leading up to this agreement are required to remain strictly confidential,” City Attorney Tim Hayes was quoted in the press release. City officials this week would not give reasons why Vizzusi left his job. Vizzusi joined the city of Lincoln police force in August 2004 as a lieutenant and was promoted to police chief in July 2006. Vizzusi said he could not comment “at this time.” On Monday, The News Messenger asked Estep why Vizzusi left his job as Lincoln’s chief of police. “As we stated in the press release, this is a confidential personnel matter and I am not able to discuss the reasons leading up to this departure other than to say it is a mutual parting of ways,” Estep e-mailed Tuesday morning. “It is not unusual for personnel matters to be handled this way and the city has already provided significantly more detail than a private employer would have provided in a similar matter.” When asked how much Vizzusi received in severance pay, Estep wrote Tuesday that the former police chief “was paid per the terms of his employment contract with the City of Lincoln.” The city manger’s e-mail reply did not state how much severance pay Vizzusi received. Estep has responded to News Messenger questions only via e-mail for the last week and the questions have not been fully answered. The police chief has been on paid leave since at least Jan. 14. Since then, there have been many rumors about his job status called into The News Messenger. The rumors have run the gamut of Vizzusi receiving a vote-of-no-confidence from the Police Officers Association to the City Council and city manager voting to remove the police chief from his job. Since Jan. 21, the city manager and City Council would not discuss any factors regarding Vizzusi’s leave and job status. At first, city officials said Vizzusi was “on vacation” and it became a “personnel matter” two weeks later. Mayor Tom Cosgrove told The News Messenger on Feb. 9 that he would “be very disappointed” if Vizzusi wasn’t the police chief any more “because he’s done a great job and he’s brought new ideas and innovations. Brian really is a good guy and I hold him in the highest regards.” When asked Monday if he still “felt disappointed” about Vizzusi leaving, Cosgrove said “yes but I have to respect” Vizzusi’s departure from the police department. “I appreciate the work Chief Vizzusi did during the time he was our chief,” Cosgrove said. What’s next for the city of Lincoln While Lt. Paul Shelgrin has been interim acting police chief since Jan. 22, the city doesn’t yet have plans on naming a new successor to the top job. Asked by The News Messenger what the city is looking for in a new chief of police, Cosgrove said Monday it’s “something City Council will have to sit down and discuss.” Because of the Brown Act, Cosgrove said the City Council “can’t discuss (the search for a new chief of police) until it is agendicized,” and he is not sure if that discussion will occur during open or closed session of the City Council meeting “or even during a City Council meeting.” Estep wrote that Shelgren “will remain in charge as we begin the process of finding both an interim and permanent replacement for Chief Vizzusi,” and that it could take “several months” to find a new chief of police. “The recruitment for the new police chief will be open statewide, if not nationwide, and that timeline has not been established yet,” Estep wrote Tuesday. When told that The News Messenger had not yet received a response early Tuesday afternoon from the city manager about what the city is looking for in a new police chief, Sheridan resident Bob Fish said, “You can’t run a city like this without having some idea of where they’re going to go. They have to have some idea.” Estep didn’t have a response for what the city is looking for in the new police chief until after The News Messenger asked several times. Estep wrote late Tuesday afternoon that he hadn’t “had much time to give thought to that question,” but gave a few “traits” he’d be looking for in the new chief, which are listed above in an information box. Lt. Paul Shelgren is now the acting police chief. “I wish Brian the best,” Shelgren told The News Messenger Tuesday. When asked if he would apply to be the next police chief of Lincoln, Shelgren said, “I haven’t thought about it.” “I’m focused on doing the best we can with the resources we have,” Shelgren said. So what does the public say about Vizzusi no longer being the Lincoln police chief? “I think the whole thing is strange,” said Jennifer Green, a Lincoln resident. As far as a new police chief, Green said she wants someone who is “honest and that knows the town and knows how Lincoln works.” Resident Robert Wire said Vizzusi “did a great job” as the chief of police. “We didn’t have very much trouble around Lincoln, not like some of the other cities,” Wire said. “He always seemed to do his job.” New Police Chief traits The following are some traits City Manager Jim Estep told The News Messenger he is looking for in a new police chief: * An innovative, community oriented and visionary individual who understands the dynamics associated with a fast-growing city. * Has excellent communication skills and has proven experience as a strong and successful leader. * A team oriented, flexible individual who is open and accessible. * Possesses in-depth experience in budgeting. * Has successfully implemented innovative problem-solving tactics designed to reduce crime. * An ability to develop/mentor personnel and proven experience in dealing with organizational conflict resolution. * Sets clear expectations and holds people accountable for achieving the desired goals of the department.