Where's Ruecker?

Sherwood's director of public safety, Ron Ruecker, clocked nearly 500 hours for non-city related work last year

City records show that one of Sherwood's senior staff members has been getting paid thousands of dollars to work on non-city related business.

In an eight-month period from April 2007 to January 2008, Ron Ruecker, the city's director of public safety, spent more than one-third of his time working on business related to the International Association of Chiefs of Police - and the city paid him more than $21,000 to do so.

But Sherwood leaders say the money - as well as Ruecker's time away from the city - is worth it.

'We knew he would be away when we hired him,' said Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays of Ruecker's time working for the IACP, an organization that Ruecker heads as president of the association. 'For his pay rate we are getting a tremendous individual.'

Ruecker, who is in charge of the city's fire services, police department and new part-time emergency management coordinator, logged 490 hours on IACP business during the eight-month period in 2007 - sometimes working more than 15 hours on IACP business in one day.

Ruecker says the long days he logged on his timesheets usually involved travel to and from places like Washington D.C., where he often represents the IACP on Capital Hill.

'If I'm in a meeting in D.C. during the day, I'll catch a flight back to Oregon that evening so I can be back at work for the city the next morning,' Ruecker explained. 'I could stay overnight and I don't think anybody would blame me for that, but I want to be back here. If you look at my timesheets you'll see that, the next day, I start work first thing in the morning.'

In fact, Ruecker's timesheets show that the safety director works an average of 47 hours each week. Still, much of this time is logged to the IACP, an organization that has considerable political sway on a national level and that Ruecker contends will help Sherwood in the long run.

'Having a seat at the table does benefit Oregon and Sherwood,' Ruecker said. 'It may not be readily apparent why my time with the (IACP) is good for the city ... but there are things in the works, some ongoing discussions, and if those things happen, I think people in Sherwood will see the benefits.'

Ruecker said his time commitment to the IACP was something Gov. Ted Kulongoski OK'd when he reappointed Ruecker to a second term as Oregon's superintendent of the State Police. Ruecker retired from the OSP in December 2006, one year shy of completing his second four-year term as superintendent. Ruecker says he retired early because after seven years of fighting for adequate funding, he believed a fresh face might be able to get more money for the state's troopers.

Less than one month later, Ruecker received a call from one of Sherwood's leaders asking him to help the city by taking over as deputy police chief - and interim police chief while former Police Chief Bill Middleton was serving with the U.S. Army Reserves as an interrogator in the Middle East. Ruecker wouldn't say who called him, but does say that he was a well-known member of law enforcement and it was common knowledge that he was looking for another job.

'I was only 51 years old when I retired from the Oregon State Police,' Ruecker says. 'I wanted to go back to work.'

At that time, Ruecker served as the first vice president of the IACP and was next in line for the president position. To become president, however, Ruecker had to be a police chief or in a position above a police chief.

Three months after Ruecker came to Sherwood to serve as the interim police chief, the city offered him a new position - as the city's director of public safety.

The city had never had a director of public safety, but city leaders say the position was desperately needed.

'We weren't up to speed on emergency management,' Patterson said.

Craig Sheldon, Sherwood's director of public works, was attending county meetings on emergency management for the city, but says the work was in addition to his regular duties.

'We definitely needed someone to coordinate the city's emergency management,' Sheldon said.

Ruecker became the city's first director of public safety in April 2007 and said he told the city manager he would need to be away for IACP business.

'He (City Manager Ross Schultz) said this is what we need from you and I said this (time for the IACP) is what I need from you,' Ruecker said. He added that, if the city of Sherwood hadn't offered him a position with flexibility he would have looked elsewhere.

Ruecker was named president of the IACP in October and said his time commitment has actually decreased since he moved from vice president to president. His position advocates for more than 21,000 members of law enforcement who make up the IACP.

'I've spent less time on IACP (business) since the New Year,' Ruecker said. 'In January it was only a couple of days and in February I only have two or three commitments.'

Questioned about the safety director's time away from city business, Assistant City Manager Jim Patterson said Ruecker's work with the IACP might not benefit Sherwood directly but that it does 'benefit the city indirectly.'

City leaders have been unclear on exactly how Ruecker's work with the IACP benefits the city directly or indirectly, but the city managers and the mayor all say they're pleased with the work Ruecker has done for Sherwood since he came on board last April.

'For (Ruecker) to represent Sherwood and Oregon as (president of the IACP) and to gain knowledge in that position can only help Sherwood,' Mays said. 'Myself and the entire city council are thrilled to have (Ruecker) working for Sherwood.'

Between April 2007 and January 2008, the city paid Ruecker for a total of 1,446 hours, including 800 hours for administrative duties; 490 hours for IACP-related business; and 112 hours for personal time and holidays.

Since becoming the city's first director of public safety, Ruecker has spent 55 percent of his time on administrative duties related to his job with the city; 34 percent of his time working on IACP business; and 8 percent of his time on personal time off or holiday. Ruecker earns $87,755.20 a year as the city's director of public safety.

Patterson says the city is 'comfortable' with the arrangement between Schultz and Ruecker.

'They had an agreement about his time working for the IACP and they've talked about this issue,' Patterson said. 'At this point in time, Sherwood is comfortable with that arrangement.'

But many people closely associated with Sherwood's police department and the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue district - none of whom felt comfortable going on record for this article -- have said Ruecker never seems to be around.

Patterson, who said he's personally attended meetings at the police department that Ruecker headed, said he finds that hard to believe.

'I'm satisfied from the results that we're getting from Ruecker's role with the city as we reorganize (the police) department,' Patterson said.

But this isn't the first time Ruecker has been questioned about his time working with the IACP.

In 2005, when Ruecker was superintendent of the Oregon State Police, two Republican legislators - former House Majority Leader Wayne Scott and state Rep. Andy Olson of Albany, a retired OSP officer -accused Ruecker of 'excessive out-of-state travel' and requested an audit by the secretary of state.

The legislators had travel logs showing that Ruecker had taken 219 days off for 68 trips during a five-year period, most often traveling to Washington D.C. for IACP conventions.

In an interview with the Register Guard newspaper in 2005, Ruecker said those trips benefited Oregon.

'Oregon is a long way from Washington D.C. and our voices need to be heard within the Beltway,' Ruecker told the Register Guard newspaper in 2005.

The same is true now, Ruecker says.

'I am doing the job they hired me to do here and I think the people of Sherwood are getting a good value,' Ruecker said. 'I have the chance to lead this huge organization and have a seat at the table with the people who can make a difference ... that is beneficial to Oregon and to Sherwood.'