South Pasadena, CA officials hold secret interview for police chief

The Brass Key | August 19, 2010 | Comments (0)

A reserve cop with ties to the police officer’s union and a former Maywood police chief each confirmed Wednesday they are finalists for the city’s open police chief job.

Reserve officer Joe Payne and former Maywood Chief Frank Hauptmann met with the City Council behind closed doors Wednesday evening. An agenda for the executive session was labeled “performance evaluation of the city manager,” which an open government expert said violates California’s Brown Act.

“If their plan is to interview for police chief, the Brown Act says the agenda must say that much,” said Terry Francke, head of Californians Aware. “They needn’t name the candidates or say the word interview, but they have to say the closed session is related to hiring one or more candidates for police chief.”

Francke said South Pasadena’s agenda is “misleading.”

While City Manager John Davidson claimed the process has been “open and transparent,” he refused to give the names of the candidates and would not confirm whether any interviews were to be conducted Wednesday night.

“I will neither confirm or deny we are meeting with candidate for the police chief job,” he said.

Davidson said the agenda met the requirements laid out by the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law that requires agencies to list the topics to be discussed behind closed doors. Davidson declined to comment on why South Pasadena listed performance evaluation instead of interviews, and referred questions about the agenda to the city’s legal counsel, Richard Adams.

“You’ll have to ask the city attorney why we put it on the agenda like that,” Davidson said.

Adams did not return calls seeking comment.

City councilmen Philip Putnam, Richard Schneider and David Sifuentes did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile Hauptmann and Payne prepared for their respective interviews.

Hauptmann spent more than 20 years as a cop in Garden Grove before being hired by Maywood’s Police Department as a consultant. He arrived in Maywood during a series of scandals that landed one officer in court on sexual assault charges, and an investigation that found rampant excessive use of force in the department.

Hauptmann eventually ascended to the rank of police chief shortly before the Maywood City Council decided to contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2009. Skyrocketing insurance premiums, prompted by police brutality lawsuits, made the department too expensive to operate, Hauptmann said.

If selected, Hauptmann said he plans to focus on quality of life issues affecting South Pasadena.

“It has that `Leave it to Beaver’ neighborhood feel,” he said about South Pasadena. “But traffic is an issue.”

Part of his traffic solution is to step-up commercial traffic enforcement and limit the flow of large trucks along Fremont Avenue from points south of South Pasadena.

Payne spent 35 years as a police officer in South Pasadena before retiring in 2007. He also listed traffic enforcement as a top priority.

Payne pointed to traffic stings, that often net more than 100 violators in a four-hour sweep, as proof the department needs more daily traffic patrols.

“The mere fact that officers can set up on crosswalk and write upwards of 120 tickets in less than four hours shows you regular enforcement is lacking,” he said. “We were looking at traffic from a quarterly perspective instead of a daily perspective.”

Payne also wants to update the department’s procedure and emergency manuals.

Davidson said he will take the input from City Council and could announce his decision on the new police chief as early as Sept. 15.

Source: Brian Charles, Pasadena Star News

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