Solid Waste District Board Dismisses Langbehn
September 3, 2014 — Chris Nolte, Lakeshore Public Media — The search will begin in the weeks and months ahead for the next executive director of the Lake County Solid Waste Management District.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday night to terminate its employment contract with Jeff Langbehn and to pay him a $36-thousand severance lump-sum payment, which included his salary for the rest of 2014 and the cost of his employee benefits. Langbehn reportedly made $107,235 as executive director in 2013.
Solid Waste District Board Chairman David Hamm said after the meeting that the dismissal was not “for cause,” and that the board “wanted to go in a different direction.” Langbehn and the board of directors agreed in an earlier executive session to the terms of the separation as provided in his contract. He was not present at Wednesday night’s board meeting where the official vote was taken.
Hamm said he couldn’t speculate on the board members’ thoughts that led to Langbehn’s dismissal, but the only executive director that the Lake County Solid Waste Management District has known has been under fire in recent months for the purchase for an employee of a designer purse with more than $750 in taxpayer funds. The gift was for the employee earning a masters’ degree from a local university.
The board named Assistant Director Jeanette Romano as the acting executive director, and Hamm said a search will be made to fill the vacancy. He said the executive search could be local, within Indiana or nationally.
Langbehn became the executive director of the Lake County Solid Waste Management District, after enactment of a state law in 1990 that established the ability to create single- or multi-county solid waste management districts.
Langbehn is credited with, among other things, starting and expanding recycling drop-off centers across Lake County and establishing an extensive and successful public education program. But he first became involved in controversy a few years after coming to the position, over developers’ plans to establish a 500-acre landfill in Eagle Creek Township. The Solid Waste Management District board cancelled an agreement over the landfill and developers sued. The matter was settled out of court.
Langbehn later publicly supported a proposal from Evansville-based Powers energy to build a $300-million trash-to-ethanol plant near Schneider. The Solid Waste Management District board cancelled its contract with Powers in April 2013.