Minutes July 27, 2015
July 27, 2015
The Enterprise City Council met in special session on Monday, July 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm. Those present were Mayor Steven Lear; Councilors Dave Elliott, Stacey Karvoski, Bill Coffin, Laura Miller, Larry Christman, Jenni Word; City Attorney Roland Johnson; Staff Michele Young, Denine Rautenstrauch
Guests: T.J. Miller
Press: Kathleen Ellen from Wallowa County Chieftain.
Pledge of Allegiance
Mayor Lear asked that all electronic devices be shut off. Kathleen Ellen stated she did have a recorder but she would shut it off during an executive meeting.
DISCUSSION REGARDING THE HIRING OF A CHIEF OF POLICE
Mayor Lear opened the meeting by saying the decision we make tonight is a very important decision. It is a decision that hasn’t been mandated to us by some other government organization so we should give it some serious consideration if you haven’t already. It is time to discuss our position of hiring a Police Chief. Mayor Lear stated that if in fact you are in support of hiring a new Police Chief, that also means you support the Police Dept. and the rebuilding of it to the point that it should be.
Mayor Lear opened the floor for discussion.
Councilor Elliott stated that he is in support for the basis of having a police department. Councilor Elliott does not feel now is the time to get a Police Chief until we have everything cleared and we know all of our options. It does not mean he is 100% in support or against, we need to look at everything to see what is in the best interest of the city in general.
Councilor Karvoski stated that she is 100% in support of having a Police Department and ready to move forward. Our two officers have been doing everything they can to keep our department operating. We need to step up and hire somebody to operate this department, get their policies and procedures updated, get the officers the training they need, etc. Councilor Karvoski stated she knows what we will get if we go with the County and that is nothing. Her husband worked for the County years ago, at that time there were two Joseph deputies. They had to live within a 6 mile radius of the City of Joseph and 80% of their time was spent within that 6 mile radius. Currently she does not believe there is one deputy that lives in Joseph. They are not mandated to spend time in Joseph and she does not think they enforce ordinances. As long as the city can afford to do this she feels we need to continue.
Councilor Coffin supports the Police Dept. but he also believes in Police protection. He does not feel we have negotiated at all with the County to see what the County can do for us. His opinion at this stage of the game is we haven’t explored other options. He is looking for the same amount of hours for coverage a we have now.
Councilor Jenni Word joined by phone at this time.
Councilor Christman stated that he supports the Police Dept. 100%. He has had several people after last weeks Chieftain wanting to know why we haven’t moved ahead. We have put a terrible burden on two individuals, granted our Police force has not been up to par. This is not something that you change overnight. Councilor Christman stated that he has been in Public Office long enough to know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need to go ahead, we have problems that the council and the two people that we have employed are not able to complete to get us where we want to get. We need someone with the expertise, leadership and knowledge of what has to be done and we have a fair outline of what that is. Councilor Christman feels we need to move ahead.
Councilor Miller stated that she is very much in support of our police department, moving forward will help to set that leadership where our department has been lacking. Hiring a chief we can really set the tone of the department. Our officers have done a commendable job with the current lack of training and staff. She is very much in support of keeping our own department. It is her understanding that we will not receive remotely the coverage we receive now and it is important to move forward with it.
Councilor Elliott is not sure why we are in such a hurry to get a Chief. He feels we have not had a reasonable department for quite some time. He is not aware of any communication of any kind between the city and the county regarding a contract. We have had what we thought we had. With the climate in our community regarding the Police Dept., we need to make it all public and make it best for everybody. He is afraid if we commit to a Police Chief we are truly committed.
Councilor Word stated she echoes what Councilor Christman said. She has spoken to Steve Rogers herself as a member of the Police Committee a couple of different times, he is not excited about taking on a contract. We haven’t done anything official but she is very much in favor of supporting our police force versus contracting out our police department. We have a lot of room to improve, the two working here have done an outstanding job but have only received minimal support. Councilor Word gave kudos to our current officers Kohlhepp and Miller.
Mayor Lear stated he very much supports the Police Dept. A good Police Department is a good foundation for a community. We have a good Police Dept. and School system, giving the community confidence.
Mayor Lear stated he feels some of the decay of the Police Dept falls firmly on the council because there was not strong supervision to the point we needed it. Let’s learn from our hindsight and make something good out of it. Let’s make something that is better than it was before, we have two people who have the attitude to succeed and it all goes back to leadership.
Mayor Lear stated that this is the process we will use when searching for a new chief, a criteria for excellence and leadership. We are going to make damn sure that the person we choose will achieve our goals and if we don’t do that, we will end up where we were.
Mayor Lear wants to pursue aggressively to get a chief and partner with them to get our department to be the best.
Councilor Coffin stated we all want the best, but his opinion is, “is this the best”? He feels the public has a very negative attitude toward our police dept. Michele Young asked Councilor Coffin to share those comments with us. He stated he has talked to a lot of people, they don’t like the direction our department has been going. Mayor Lear asked what they want. Councilor Coffin stated they want transparency. Mayor Lear stated that in today's world that is a buzz word but when you say the Police Dept. didn’t have transparency; we are looking more for performance and results, transparency is a by-product.
Councilor Elliott stated the people that have come to him and his experience has been that our department has been very lackluster to protect anything, to do any research. Councilor Elliott shared his own experience of thefts and he had no help from the police department. Councilor Karvoski stated that again goes back to Leadership. Councilor Elliott stated that yes it does go back to Leadership but his point is that Leadership goes back years ago, he had his shop for 17 years. It was that way from the day he opened the shop. Councilor Elliott stated that the people he talks to do not trust the Police Dept. They are good at giving parking tickets , not wearing your seatbelt, giving tickets for u-turns on Depot Street instead of knocking on doors telling people they parked their car wrong. He is not saying this is what happens all of the time but that is his experience.
Mayor Lear thinks honestly that if we all went to the board and wrote down our positive and negative experiences that it would be a 5-1 ratio of good things that have happened. Whether it be saving a cat, taking care of serious drug issues that were on the table. We have all had experiences and Councilor Elliott's have been horrible but Mayor Lear concurs that if he had the same experiences he would feel sour. But you have to have confidence in your compatriots here that we will do the right thing because he knows you (Councilor Elliott) wants to do the right thing. We are responsible for that direction.
Councilor Elliott wants all the information he can get before making a decision. Mayor Lear asked what he wants to know. Councilor Elliott stated he wants to know how much money it will cost to contract with the County. Mayor Lear told him to look at the budget, that is what it will cost.
Councilor Christman told Councilor Elliott that he needs to call Union, Elgin, Wallowa. Look at their budget and see what it cost them. There was no negotiation, it took all of their cars and equipment. You never get that back. They can never afford to buy back what they gave away because someone was passionate about saving a dime by going to the Sheriff’s Dept. Councilor Christman invited Councilor Elliott to his home some evening if he has tine. He has a school bus scanner he has had for some 40 years. 90% of the county calls are domestic, the two guys we have now on our departments are making stops after stops for many things.
Michele Young stated that our officers don’t just do traffic stops. Child Abuse, drugs, sex crimes. They don’t just sit on a corner waiting for a car going 5 miles past the speed limit. She knows this because she has worked here a very long time and has watched the various crimes our Police Dept. has had to deal with. Michele told Councilor Elliot that it is not like it was when he was a kid, the world has changed and we are now in a world where crime is much bigger and it is happening right here in Enterprise. It is happening in Wallowa, Lostine, Joseph and the County. It has changed, Michele agreed with Councilor Christman. You need to talk to cities who have lost their departments. Michele stated that she has spoken to many cities and many of them wished they had not lost their departments. You lose so much local control when you give up that service. Councilor Elliott stated that he is not saying that we let them go, he is saying he wants to know what the best way to do it. Do we need 2, 3, 5 officers.
Mayor Lear stated that there is no one in this room that has had the prior experience of building up a police force. We can talk about all of the what if’s we want right now but we don’t have the resources or expertise, we need the knowledge and leadership. We tell them what we want and they tell us what the action plan is. He wants someone to come on and get going.
Mayor Lear stated that if he thought for a New York minute it was going to give us better coverage and a better value you would be hearing a different tune out of me but he does not believe that, especially when the Sheriff will tell you that he can’t. He doesn’t have the resources. With our own department you have a defined target, we have people dedicated just to that. Mayor Lear stated that is what he wants, he likes going to bed at night knowing that dam well that if something happens they will be knocking on his door to help me and I don’t feel that way if we contract it out. It is not their fault (County Sheriff) because they have a whole county to cover as Councilor Karvoski pointed out.
Mayor Lear asked Councilor Elliott to give me three things he has to know before he would feel comfortable moving forward. Councilor Elliott stated that he would want to know from somebody who has experience to streamline our department so that it works more efficiently before he commits to hiring a new Chief and saying we are going to have a police force even though it is defunct. Councilor Christman felt Councilor Elliott is way off base. We have had a lot more coverage and support than you are giving them credit for. Councilor Elliott stated he would have liked to have seen it. Councilor Christman told him he just needed to keep his eyes open and listen.
Councilor Coffin stated that in the past few years there have been some serious deficiencies of our own Police Dept. and we have to own up to that. Is there any reassurance that hiring a new chief and staff that it is for the betterment of the citizens of Enterprise. Councilor Karvoski stated that if we don’t like what is going on with our Police Chief we can take action but once we go to the County we have no control.
Councilor Word not on phone any longer.
Councilor Karvoski made a motion to move forward with hiring a new Chief of Police. Councilor Miller seconded that motion. Vote passed with 4 in favor and Councilors Elliott and Coffin opposing.
Mayor Lear stated that we would now close the Public Meeting and go into an Executive Session as allowed by ORS192.660(2)(f) to consider information or records that are exempt by law from public inspection. The press is asked to not report on anything heard during the executive session.
Mayor Lear called the public meeting back to order.
Councilor Christman made a motion to withhold from public disclosure those portions of the police agency report which referred to the Sergeant of the Enterprise Police Department and which were referred to a personnel investigator to conduct a personnel investigation and we would include the reason for each redaction. Councilor Miller seconded the motion which passed unanimously.
Steven D. Lear, Mayor
Michele R. Young, City Admin./Recorder