Posts Tagged ‘Morgan Smith’

Inflammatory emails released by the city pursuant to a Public Records Act request reveal behind-the-scenes strategizing and advocacy among some Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) members, frequent emails about city business from UAC Chair Arlene Buetow to certain council members’ personal email addresses, testy exchanges between Buetow and City Manager Doug Schulze, and scorching criticisms by Buetow of city staff, UAC colleagues and citizens with whom she did not agree.

Buetow assumed the chairmanship of the UAC in March of 2012 and is now running for Bainbridge city council.

Under her leadership, the UAC’s mission has expanded well beyond the scope of the city’s UAC ordinance. She regularly emailed council persons Sarah Blossom, Steven Bonkowski, David Ward and/or Debbi Lester at their personal email addresses, with extensive comments on utility issues. Those four council persons often vote as a bloc on a variety of contested issues. When they were running for council, Ward, Blossom and Bonkowski were critical of the city’s management of utilities. Their candidacies were supported by the Ratepayers Alliance, a group that sued the city in 2009 over utility issues. Sally Adams, secretary of the Ratepayers Alliance, was occasionally included as a recipient of Buetow emails.

Except for routine matters like scheduling and a thank-you note to Anne Blair, Ms. Buetow did not include council persons Bob Scales, Kirsten Hytopoulos or Anne Blair in the emails produced to me.  (more…)

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“The evidence partially supports and partially refutes the Guild’s allegations.”

That sentence appears throughout the Rebecca Dean report on the allegations in the Bainbridge Island Police Guild’s vote of no confidence against Chief Jon Fehlman. It could serve as a summary of the report itself, which partially addresses the Guild’s allegations, and is partially inconclusive. It could also be a portrait of the Guild, which comes across as partially a group of dedicated officers and partially a band of immature tattletales.

The allegations in the Guild’s no confidence vote range from relatively minor judgment errors or misunderstandings on Fehlman’s part, to rehashing of previously resolved union complaints, to petty gossip and rumor, to at least one falsehood. For a summary, go here.

Now that Fehlman has resigned, issues about his performance are no longer relevant. But the rest of the department remains–and Bainbridge will be well served if the police management study proposed by Interim City Manager Morgan Smith looks at the BIPD’s organization and culture, the influence of the Guild, the quality of each member’s performance, and the attitude they have toward each other, their work and to the members of the community they serve.

As a glimpse into BIPD culture, one Guild allegation stands out for its dishonesty and recklessness: the claim that Fehlman falsely stated in deposition testimony that he gave an oral reprimand to Lieutenant Chris Jensen for providing faulty information about the Ostling shooting. The Guild wrote in its no confidence complaint: “The Chief’s statement under oath violates policy and state laws relating to perjury and false swearing.” [emphasis in the original]

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After two months,$25,000 and hundreds of pages of reports and exhibits, the report by investigator Rebecca Dean on the allegations against Chief Jon Fehlman by the police Guild is complete.

At the same time the report was released to the public, Interim City Manager Morgan Smith also announced that Fehlman has resigned.

Although the no confidence vote is no longer relevant to the question of whether Fehlman should stay, it is the clearest publicly available indication of the attitudes and thinking of Guild members and deserves careful consideration as the City moves forward with its anticipated police management study.

Smith directed Dean to investigate the allegations made in the Guild’s vote of no confidence, taken in June. Although Guild leadership has said its most significant complaint about Fehlman is his leadership style, Smith told Dean she was not to investigate allegations related to his performance in that areas or to policy matters “for which determinations or assessments would be subjective rather than fact-based.” Smith further instructed Dean not to investigate allegations related to the Ostling litigation, “which represents ongoing litigation.” (more…)

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Fehlman resigns

Today, Interim City Manager Morgan Smith makes the following statement:

“Police Chief Jon Fehlman has decided to resign from the City effective Saturday, September 15.  The terms of a separation agreement will be presented to the City Council tomorrow night. The City wishes Jon the best in his future endeavors and thanks him for his service to the City.  (more…)

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Islanders for Collaborative Policing (with its unfortunate acronym “ICP,” the initials for the 80’s horrorcore band, Insane Clown Posse) has released its recommendations for reform of the Bainbridge Island Police Department. The police reform group, created last December, is governed by a six-person citizen board and held several public meetings to solicit community input about police issues.

Considering the conflict and negative press surrounding the Bainbridge Island Police Department in the past year, the group produced a surprisingly tame document which mostly recycles old standbys–more officers on foot and in schools, more training, more citizen involvement, better communication.

Interim City Manager Morgan Smith, Interim Public Safety Director Larry Dickerson and Commander Sue Shultz have issued a memo (the “City’s Response”) responding to the recommendations (linked below). (more…)

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I was hoping the Bainbridge Island Police Guild and its supporters would have the patience to wait for Rebecca Dean to complete her investigation of the charges in its no confidence vote against Chief Jon Fehlman and issue her report to the City. Her report was originally estimated to take 4-6 weeks to complete, which means it may be issued any day now.

Unfortunately, the Guild is attempting to try its charges against Chief Fehlman in the court of public opinion, rather than wait for the investigation process to be completed. A couple of weeks ago, the Guild posted a feature, “The Truth Patrol,” on its website, which takes aim at an unnamed blogger (yours truly) as well as City Manager Morgan Smith (see the end of this post) and Chief Fehlman. Today, former Bainbridge Police officer Scott Anderson has sent a Trippwire missive, touting the “Truth Patrol” and its “honest information.” As a result, I’m posting the responsive email I sent to Morgan Smith and Guild President Bob Day.

Dear Bob and Morgan,

Kim Hendrickson sent out a link to the guild’s website, where there is a response to my post about the chief’s admin leave.

It’s unfortunate that the guild has chosen to put more heavy handed spin into the public record. It looks now as if the guild is trying to step up political pressure on the City Manager in a manner that is troubling.

I took copious notes during my interview with the lieutenants and I stand by my characterization of their remarks. Bob Day posted a comment on the post, noting one correction, which I made. If he had a problem with the accuracy of anything else in the article he certainly would have corrected that as well, but he did not.  (more…)

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Emails released under the Public Records Act suggest that Interim City Manager Morgan Smith will put police Chief Jon Fehlman on paid administrative leave as soon as he is well enough to assist in the investigation into the Bainbridge Police Guild’s no confidence vote.

The Guild took a vote of no-confidence in Fehlman’s leadership on June 11, after he’d been out on medical leave for a month due to pancreatitis and a heart condition. He was so ill he could not attend any portion of the Ostling trial in May, even though he was a named defendant in the high profile case involving the shooting death of a mentally ill man by a Bainbridge police officer. A jury determined that Fehlman and the City of Bainbridge Island failed to train its officers in dealing with the mentally ill and returned a $1 million verdict.

Defense lawyers have requested a new trial for Fehlman because of his inability to appear in court and testify in his own defense.

On June 15, Smith engaged lawyer and independent investigator Rebecca Dean to investigate the allegations contained in the vote of no confidence. Dean’s work is expected to take four to six weeks.  (more…)

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Update 7/12–for a brief report of this item at last night’s council meeting, see my comment, which is third in the comment stream below.

I am reprinting below Gloria Sayler’s excellent piece on Council overreaching and disrespect of staff, which she sent out on her Island Observer listserv yesterday. To her analysis of possible violations Governance Manual, I add the state statute that prohibits Council members from giving orders to subordinates of the City Manager. 

The chip seal contract is back on the agenda for tonight’s Council meeting. It will be interesting to see whether Interim City Manager Morgan Smith will offer support for her Public Works Director, in light of the aggressive micromanagement by Council member Dave Ward.

Many important issues have been discussed in recent Council meetings but the question I am frequently asked is “Why is the Council/City so dysfunctional?”  Of course, there is no single reason but I think I understand some of the elements. First, government, even in our small City, is more complicated than one may think at first or second glance.

Another reason, related to the first, is on display almost every Wednesday night – the time involved.  Most weeks the Council meeting lasts 3-5 hours. If you think about any meetings you attend, most people have a difficult time maintaining their focus after the 2nd hour. (more…)

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Interim City Manager Morgan Smith sent this memo this morning, addressed to police department employees and copied to the media:

I would like to thank you for your continued effort as we together navigate a particularly challenging time. The past few months have included some stressful events, and I want you to know that I am very focused on how to best move our work forward in the face of these pressures. I appreciated the chance to speak with you directly about department issues and communication last month, and I look forward to continuing that conversation at our next meeting on July 12.

In particular, I am aware that Chief Fehlman’s extended absence has placed extra demands on the department. I am extremely grateful to Commander Shultz for her management over the past few weeks, and her willingness to take on additional responsibilities is much appreciated. That appreciation extends to each of you, as I know there are ripple effects that require the entire department to step forward and respond.  (more…)

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The conversation at the Council meeting tonight began with council member Anne Blair talking about the many communications the council has received from citizens and staff about the choice for Interim City Manager. She also indicated that she and others on the ad hoc committee who brought Mike Caldwell to Bainbridge had been surprised at his remarks about change during his interview.

There was a smattering of citizen comment–about equal for and against Caldwell.

And then the surprise. On a motion by Bob Scales and seconded by Kirsten Hytopoulos, Acting City Manager Morgan Smith became Interim City Manager. The vote was 4-2, with Scales, Hytopoulos, Anne Blair and Sarah Blossom voting in favor, and Debbi Lester and Steve Bonkowski voting against. Dave Ward was absent.

I want to give a shout out to Sarah Blossom, who broke with her usual voting bloc. She said she’d been in favor of giving Caldwell the nod, but was voting for Smith because in the time it would take to find an outside Interim, the council may well be close to finding a permanent City Manager. (more…)

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