20-year sheriff's department employee terminated

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A 20-year Putnam County Sheriff's Department employee was among those terminated by new Sheriff Steve Fenwick, who was appointed Saturday.

Gary Lowe, a transport officer and civil deputy (process server), received a hand-delivered letter Sunday evening informing him of his job status.

"It is my decision that you be given the opportunity to resign from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department in lieu of termination," the letter, which was signed by Fenwick and delivered by Putnam County Sheriff's Department Ronnie Campbell, said. "If it is your decision to resign, please submit this request in writing no later than Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. I still request a verbal decision no later than 9 p.m. today. If your decision is not to resign, consider this a letter of termination effective immediately."

Lowe began working with the department as a reserve deputy in 1988. He began working three days a week as a paid part-time employee in 2000.

His termination came as a complete surprise to Lowe.

"I was just sitting here on my porch when the officer drove up," he said. "I thought maybe he had some questions about papers I'd served."

Lowe went to the sheriff's department Sunday night, he said, and "Steve barely said anything." Fenwick told Lowe to come to work on Monday so the two could talk about Lowe's employment status, Lowe said.

"I tried several times to catch him (Monday), and I finally did about 2:30," Lowe said.

It was Doug Nally, who Fenwick made chief deputy after his appointment, who told Lowe at that time he was fired, Lowe said.

"I don't know how someone can just take away a guy's income," Lowe said. "There's another process server, and he has another full-time job as a captain at the Greencastle Fire Department."

Lowe had planned on retiring from the sheriff's department.

"I took my job very seriously," he said. "I loved my job. I never had a complaint on me. I planned on working two more years, until the age of 62. I don't know if (Fenwick) thinks I'm too old to do that job or what, but those are the kinds of things that have been going through my mind."

Lowe came to the Putnam County Sheriff's Department with several years of law enforcement experience. He began his career as a special deputy for the Marion County Sheriff's Department in 1970, and also worked for the Clermont, Brownsburg and Pittsboro police departments before coming to Putnam County.

"I still get a small pension from a job I worked, but I can't live on it," Lowe said.

Lowe can't help but wonder why he was terminated, and he has been agonizing over it since it happened.

"I feel like I've done something bad or wrong, even though I know I didn't," he said. "I just feel guilty and I wonder what people are going to think. Are they going to think I had something to do with the scandal that went down in the department? I just never expected this."