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Resignations, Allegations Place Shadow Over County's Acclaimed EMA

For the second time in a week, a top emergency management official is forced to step down. The two resignations come amid allegations of mismanagement and unethical bidding practices.<br>
For the second time in a week, a top emergency management official is forced to step down. The two resignations come amid allegations of mismanagement and unethical bidding practices.

Citing allegations of mismanagement, abuse of overtime by an EMA staffer and improper bidding practices, Mayor Winnecke announced the Groupe's resignation Monday morning. Groupe had been named interim director after longtime Director Sherman Greer was forced to resign last week. Mayor Winnecke began the briefing  by saying -- in his words -- the public's trust had been violated and it needed to be restored.

Winnecke asked for Greer's resignation last week after he learned Greer had approved his office manager's 1100 hours worth of overtime. That equates to about $18 thousand. The office manager will be furloughed twice a week until that money can be recouped.  There were also questions about the purchase of an EMA vehicle using a budget line-item that was not intended for such purposes. 

After Greer's resignation, Winnecke says an internal review found what he called improper and unethical bidding practices for city contracts. The review apparently found the EMA improperly informed a vendor that someone else had submitted a lower bid and then allowed that vendor to re-submit an even lower bid.

There were also accusations that EMA leadership had inserted themselves in the purchase of communications equipment outside the public safety arena. Winnecke cited a 2011 contract between Mesker Park Zoo and a radio equipment vendor. Greer told Eyewitness News he and Groupe were merely asked for their expert advice on what communications equipment they found adequate.

Winnecke says the overhaul of the EMA was the only option.

***

The C-130 Plane Crash on February 6th, 1992 - That's when Sherman Greer earned respect.

The Eastbrooke Tornado on November 6th, 2005 - That's when Greer's Emergency Management Agency earned acclaim.

The Civic Center on July 22nd, 2013 - That's when the mayor's office was trying to manage an emergency of its own.

"Put simply, the public's trust in the EMA has been violated and it's time that it be restored," Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said.

Part of that restoration came in the form of another resignation.

Mayor Winnecke announced the resignation of EMA Deputy Director Adam Groupe, exactly a week after then-Director Sherman Greer was forced to resign after his 23 years of distinguished service.

"It's been a tough week for me," Greer said as he carried out his belongings from his office. "It's not about me, it's about the people that I work with."

The resignations come amid allegations of mismanagement, abuse of overtime by agency staff and unethical practices. An internal review apparently found EMA leadership improperly allowed a preferred vendor to re-submit a lower bid in order to win a city contract, according to Winnecke. The overhaul in leadership, Winnecke says, was his only option.

"No city department will be allowed to knowingly overlook abuse of timekeeping or act inappropriately when it comes to public bidding process," Winnecke said. "Our administration is committed to being good stewards of public tax dollars and these types of actions will not be tolerated."

"Clearly Mr. Greer is a well-liked individual in our community and a long time public servant. However, the agency heads must also manage their departments as good stewards of tax dollars."

In the end, Winnecke says, it comes down to trust.

The community trusted Greer to handle disaster and the response to it. But Mayor Winnecke couldn't trust Greer to handle the agency in charge of that response.

"As far as I'm concerned, we did a good job," Greer said. "Honestly, I'm floored by all this."

Winnecke says it's too early to tell if a criminal investigation will be warranted.


As far as the EMA is concerned in the meantime, Winnecke named EPD Captain Andy Chandler and EFD Captain Cliff Weaver as interim directors.

Winnecke says both captains have the necessary experience and certifications to run the agency while a permanent replacement is found. Both men worked closely with Sherman Greer and Adam Groupe but are focused on the task at hand.

"Emotions aside and friendships aside, I have a role to play," Capt. Chandler said. "That's what I'm going to be doing to the best of my ability."

"We're just kind of changing hats," Capt. Weaver said. "It's going to be more of a front chair instead of second or third chair."

While the two captains are acting as the interim directors, their responsibilities will be split up within their respective departments. 
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