DeKalb police chief retiring

DeKalb County is without a police chief. Also soon to depart: the official who serves as a de facto county manager.

A county spokesman said the retirement of Chief William O’Brien and pending retirement of Executive Assistant Richard Stogner were expected.

Burke Brennan also said the retirements are not related to the county’s struggles to make up a projected $42 million deficit in the 2013 budget — including potential deep cuts to the police department — despite rumors floating around county offices.

“Right now, it’s business as usual,” Brennan said.

O’Brien, 49, has served as police chief since 2010 and was acting chief for a year before that appointment. O’Brien, a DeKalb native and graduate of Redan High School, had filed notice in August that he would retire Nov. 30, after amassing 30 years of service.

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But Brennan said the chief realized he had more leave time saved up than expected and will be on vacation until the end of November. His last day in the office was Friday, when he spoke at a ceremony for 20 new graduates of the county’s Police Academy.

O’Brien did not return phone calls seeking comment.

He came up through the ranks, hired onto the force four years after graduating from Redan High School. O’Brien is a graduate of the FBI Academy and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia Southern University.

He took charge of the 1,060-member force at a time of low morale stemming from budget cutbacks and the perception of benefit reductions when the county cut paid holidays for all employees.

One of O’Brien’s first acts, months before being named chief, was to implore the County Commission to restore raises or holiday pay. The board later agreed to pay officers who work on holidays instead of mandating furlough days.

His retirement leaves just half of “The Brothers O’Brien” to run a DeKalb public service department. His younger brother, Edward O’Brien, took over as fire chief in 2011.

The county went for a year without a permanent fire chief and for 18 months without a permanent police chief.

In contrast, DeKalb moved swiftly to fill the executive assistant (aka, chief operations officer) position in 2010 after the person who held that job was fired for having an affair with a subordinate.

Stogner was tapped to fill the vacancy just a week after the firing. It was his second tenure in the post, as he’d served under then-CEO Vernon Jones before taking retirement in 2008.

Stogner took no salary for his first year back at DeKalb. His pay has since been calculated based on what he earned in 2008, minus the pension he draws, to keep him whole to his previous salary. Based on that formula, he earns $192,468 a year.

Stogner, who was unavailable for comment, said in his resignation letter that his final day will be Jan. 4. However, Brennan said Stogner has indicated he will stay on to help guide the 2013 budget to final approval, which the Board of County Commissioners makes in February.

The county has interviewed several potential replacements for Stogner, though Brennan would not identify them.

It also has posted notice that it is accepting applications for police chief, a job that pays between $98,800 and $162,600 a year. O’Brien was paid about $138,700 annually.

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