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Cornelius hires interim chief during probe

Ken Summers, a veteran of Yamhill County law enforcement will take reins


by: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Cornelius Police Chief Paul Rubenstein is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of corruption in his department.The city of Cornelius appointed an interim chief of police Tuesday to take the reins of a department roiled by a laundry list of allegations about the department’s operations.

Ken Summers, a retired captain and undersheriff of Yamhill County, will lead the department while Cornelius Police Chief Paul Rubenstein is on paid administrative leave pending the results of a city investigation into the complaints of four officers.

Officers Doug Schuetz, Mark Jansen, Miguel Monico and Sgt. Shawn Watts filed a letter with the city Oct. 17 alleging misconduct by another officer, Dustin DeHaven, and by Rubenstein.

Tensions inside the police department have been rising since the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Cornelius Police Officers’ Association, the union representing officers, expired on June 30, 2011. Since then, the city and the union have been trying to hammer out a new agreement, but negotiations have stalled.

On Sept. 28, the union filed a complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board alleging that Rubenstein and Officer Craig Wellhouser, a past president of the police union, worked to undermine the union membership.

As is often the case, compensation appears to be at the center of the conflict.

Without a contract in place, police officers haven’t been able to secure cost-of-living increases. In the union’s complaint, that is underlined as a bone of contention between officers and other employees at the city.

In the complaint, the union contends that Wellhouser didn’t restart negotiations with the city after May 15 of this year after talks between the union and the city fell apart following a contentious confrontation between the city’s lawyer and Rubenstein and union officials.

The union claims Wellhouser, who was then union president, stayed behind while the other members of the union bargaining team walked out.

At the heart of the disagreement, according to the union complaint, was a city proposal to recoup costs of a previous clash with labor this year. The city proposed holding back back cost-of-living increases for union members until the city recouped $51,582 in costs it incurred during that labor dispute.

“The city has a clear economic incentive in delaying settlement of a successor contract, because by doing so it need not commit to any increase in current benefits to Association members,” the union wrote.

Since May 15, the city has bargained contracts with the other unions that represent city employees. The union complaint alleges that the “city has ostentatiously treated other bargaining units more favorably, readily granting cost of living allowances to the firefighters union and AFSCME-represented employees in current negotiations.”

Team 3's legacy

The union unrest was influenced by forces outside the cop shop.

In June 2011, Rubenstein took the job of city manager after the city council fired former Cornelius City Manager Dave Waffle in a tense 3-2 vote. Rubenstein left the day-to-day operations at the police department to Joe Noffsinger, who is now assistant chief.

All three labor contracts were unsettled when Waffle was fired because the council's “Team 3” majority indicated it wouldn’t approve the budget passed out of the city’s budget committee.

Then Mayor Neal Knight and his allies on council, Mari Gottwald and Jamie Minshall, hoped to reduce the city’s general services fee more than the proposed budget had. Without a clear financial picture, Waffle couldn’t move forward with labor negotiations.

Once Knight, Gottwald and Minshall voted to fire Waffle and install Rubenstein, however, the council passed the budget without changes.

Rubenstein then juggled some of his police duties, along with city operations. The search for a new city manager was delayed while a successful recall effort removed “Team 3” from office.

During the city’s tumultuous 2011, morale among city employees plummeted.

It wasn’t until February when the city hired former Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake, that the city could renew contract negotiations in full.




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