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Police chief termination upheld after appeal

A committee of Scappoose councilors found no violations after a review of Doug Greisen's termination


GreisenAfter receiving a recommendation from a committee of Scappoose city councilors and a city labor attorney, City Manager Larry Lehman on Wednesday, June 18, upheld the city’s termination of Doug Greisen from the position of police chief.

The committee, called the Personnel Review Committee, deemed the recent firing of Greisen as “in compliance with existing policy and law” in a Friday, June 16, recommendation to Lehman.

Greisen appealed his termination April 12, resulting in the formation of the PRC, which was tasked with determining whether former interim City Manager Don Otterman was compliant with law and policy in firing Greisen. Under the city’s municipal code, the city manager has full authority on personnel matters, so Lehman’s decision on the matter was final.

Otterman’s decision to terminate Greisen’s contract followed months of investigations into his conduct as chief. Still, Greisen was fired without cause, as is permissible within his contract with the city.

EricksonThe PRC, made up of Councilors Larry Meres, Jason Meshell and Jeff Erickson, as well as attorney Kyle Abraham, determined Otterman violated no laws when he fired Greisen, despite Greisen’s claims in his initial appeal.

“Based on the investigation and the evidence available to it, the PRC has determined that Otterman’s decision to terminate the Agreement under the ‘without cause’ provision of paragraph 8 of the Agreement was in compliance with existing policy and law,” the PRC recommendation states.

The recommendation also states that Greisen’s April 12 appeal “failed to identify the ‘city rules’ or policies violated by Otterman.”

Greisen told the Spotlight Thursday that while he appreciates the work of the PRC and the council, he is disappointed in the outcome. He noted that neither Otterman or Lehman met with him before making their decisions.

Meres “As they are temporary, they have no ownership of our community and unfortunately their decisions have a longer lasting negative impact on our community for years to come,” Greisen wrote in an email to the Spotlight.

The PRC met in a closed session June 9 to take testimony from Greisen and his attorney John Ostrander, with Portland-based law firm Elliott Ostrander & Preston PC. Ostrander admitted Otterman violated no city law or policy in his action, but argued Greisen’s termination was a retaliatory act of his blowing the whistle on former City Manager Jon Hanken, who initially brought down disciplinary action on the former chief.

“Ostrander stated ‘there is not a particular ordinance or rule that was violated.’ Instead, Ostrander alleged there was a violation of the ‘common law,’” the recommendation states. “Eventually the PRC elicited testimony that Greisen claims Otterman’s action was in violation of the law against whistleblower retaliation ...”

MeshellGreisen said he engaged in a protected activity by questioning Hanken’s budgeting process, specifically the practice of carrying over invoices for purchases made in one fiscal year and paying the invoices in the next, according to the PRC recommendation. Neither Greisen or Ostrander, however, were able to provide evidence that Otterman was aware of Greisen’s alleged whistle-blowing or that he requested a review of Hanken’s disciplinary actions, only that the evidence is circumstantial, the recommendation states.

The PRC sought testimony from Otterman and Hanken, but Otterman declined to comment and Hanken was unable to be reached.

Lehman made his determination on the matter Wednesday in a letter to Greisen, which outlined the PRC’s recommendation and noted, “I concur with this recommendation and uphold the termination of employment.”

Otterman said in an earlier interview with the Spotlight he went by what Greisen’s contract allowed in terminating him without cause.

Greisen’s contract with the city, dated in January 2002, states under a section titled “Termination,” that his employer can terminate the contract without cause. The contract states that such a termination entitles Greisen to 60 days severance pay, which he received after the termination was issued.