Judge refuses to reinstate ousted UPD chief Wehner

Brownell praises decision saying university followed all rules concerning dismissal.

Citing potential harm to the public, a judge kept Joe Wehner from regaining his former position as director of Public Safety, at least until a final hearing is held.

In his four-page conclusion, Judge Robert Barnet said Ball State did not violate any due process laws in reassigning him, nor did the university's decision harm public welfare. Instead, Barnet wrote, reappointing Wehner as director would have an adverse effect because Wehner no longer has the support of senior staff.

Wehner's attorney, Mark Abrell of Dennis, Wenger and Abrell, had filed a preliminary injunction for Wehner to retain his position until a final hearing could be scheduled. Abrell said he was still trying to reinstate Wehner as director.

"From our perspective, Wehner was not given his due rights," he said.

President Blaine Brownell, in a press conference following the decision, praised Barnet's decision, saying the university had followed the rules replacing Wehner.

"Sometimes you're in the place where you no longer have the trust of those above you," Brownell said. "Sometimes it's not a matter of skill."

Barnet's conclusion, however, did not specifically refer to one of the more controversial aspects of the case - the arrest of and subsequent meeting with Ball State donor and businessman Ben Delk. Delk was arrested on Jan. 5 for operating while intoxicated and operating with a blood alcohol content of .08 or above.

According to the arrest report, written by James St. Myer, Delk was "intoxicated and argumentative. It seemed he thought (because) he is a business owner he is above being arrested. Delk even mentioned calling the university president (because) he knows him."

Douglas McConkey, the vice president of Student Affairs, ultimately arranged a meeting between Wehner, Dean of Students Randy Hyman and Delk, but there were no lawyers.

Brownell, at the conference, said he conveyed to McConkey that a meeting would be appropriate. He said the university has taken similar actions with students' parents, and he compared it to a mayor meeting with a disgruntled citizen.

If asked if he would help arrange a meeting with a student, Brownell said it would depend on the nature of the allegations.

According to Brownell, there was nothing illegal about it and that justice was not obstructed. According to Brownell, Delk did not argue against being arrested during the meeting. He took offense, instead, to the behavior of the officers.

"The timing of that incident was very unfortunate," Brownell said.

Wehner told a slightly different story during his testimony Tuesday. Wehner said the defendant complained about being handcuffed by the officers. McConkey, during his testimony, said the complaint concerned the manner in which he was handcuffed.

McConkey also said Wehner's reassignment was due to a culmination of civilian complaints and facts uncovered since the Eric Moore trial. The complaints and allegations were "very disturbing."

"We've learned a lot since then," he said.

Wehner will be reappointed to a new position with the same salary and benefits. Specific details have yet to be worked out, but Brownell said it would involve policies and procedures of safety issues. Heather Shupp, the executive director of University Relations, said it could include public safety in regard to infrastructures. She said she didn't believe anyone would be reporting to him.

Brownell said the issues Wehner would be looking at are issues the Department of Public Safety should pay attention to, but he was not sure what would happen to the position if Wehner refused it.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," he said.

Wehner has been reassigned just as one advisory committee is finishing its report and another is beginning. The advisory committee appointed by Brownell to review the State Police investigation should be releasing its results next week, Brownell said. The Comprehensive Program Review, which consists of internal and outside studies of the program, should be completed near the end of the summer.

One of the policies possibly being changed is the University Police Department's use of handcuffs. Currently, the UPD uses handcuffs in every arrest situation.


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