Ex-public safety chief to file wrongful termination lawsuit

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INDIANAPOLIS – The former Chief of Professional Standards for the Department of Public Safety has filed a notice she intends to sue the city for wrongful termination.

Ellen Corcella was hired under former Public Safety Director Frank Straub in 2012 but fired a little more than a year later by his successor, Troy Riggs.

Corcella played a key and controversial role into an investigation into the handling of evidence in the David Bisard case.

In her tort claim filed Sept. 11, Corcella contends she was hired to root out “fraud, waste, mismanagement, misconduct, corruption and illegal activities involving the Department of Public Safety.”

On April 16, 2012, when it was revealed that a vial of blood taken from Officer David Bisard following a fatal  on-duty accident in 2010 had been transferred to an unrefrigerated IMPD property room, “Straub immediately told (Corcella)…to determine the circumstances,” of the transfer.

Corcella claims that Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry “and Ryan Vaughn, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, injected themselves into Claimant’s “independent” investigation.”

Curry, when he became aware of Corcella’s access to the blood vial evidence, in violation of a judge’s order, wrote a letter to Mayor Greg Ballard.

“Disturbing developments….reckless and irresponsible” were the words Curry used to describe Corcella’s investigation.

“Ellen Corcella should know better,” Curry wrote.

Corcella was a supervisor of the Marion County Grand Jury under previous prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

Curry asked Ballard to “immediately remove Director Straub and Ellen Corcella from their positions.”

The prosecutor wrote the mayor that Corcella’s handling of the blood vial would “lead to additional arguments from the defense regarding chain of custody of the evidence and alleged tampering.”

Three judges have now determined that Corcella’s investigation of the evidence has not compromised the case.

“Clearly the evidence was still intact,” Curry recently told Fox 59 News. “Obstruction of justice would utilize using falsified documents, that sort of thing, and so there’s nothing in of itself that in my mind would fall within the obstruction of justice statute.”

During a recent motions hearing it was revealed that Corcella was present on two occasions when an IMPD detective secretly taped the lead prosecutor in the case discussing strategy and evidence.

Those revelations have led to an internal IMPD investigation about the Bisard blood vial investigation.

“We have no reason to believe there is anything else,” said Curry. “I have complete confidence that whatever needs to be done internally will be addressed.”

Even though Corcella and Straub have been listed as potential witnesses in the Bisard case, Curry said his focus remains on the upcoming trial in which the officer is accused of driving drunk and killing motorcyclist Eric Wells.

In her tort claim, Corcella alleges that she was marginalized by incoming Public Safety Director Troy Riggs in fall 2012 and placed in charge of the director’s Efficiency Team reviews, which got off to a faltering start.

Corcella claims that she was rebuffed in her attempts to investigation IMPD corruption.

“(Corcella) uncovered and reported a multitude of abuses by IMPD officers,” reads the claim, “including, but not limited to, 1) officers tasing citizens in the back; 2) officers referring to women as (expletive), engaging in sexual harassment, and showing pornography to subordinates while on duty; 3) officers running their own private businesses while on duty and officers running their private businesses using tax payer dollars; 4) officers using IMPD’s system to fund prostitutes who had been arrested in order to solicited (sic) sex.”

Corcella claims Riggs reduced her to, “an overpaid administrative assistant,” before her termination in March.

She is asking for back salary and compensatory damages for mental anguish and emotional distress.

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