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Waiting on the facts in Greisen case

Editorial


The complexities surrounding the city of Scappoose’s investigations into allegations against Chief Douglas Greisen are many and varied. To view the story in a fair light, it is crucial to take it from the beginning, back to February 2013 and the first allegations against the chief.

Last week, we reported interim City Manager Don Otterman’s decision to file a 30-day notice to terminate Greisen’s employment contract with the city without cause. The notice follows months of internal investigations into the chief, including probes into allegations he managed a hostile work environment and the discovery of what appeared to be cash linked to fundraisers dated years prior and receipts tied to his use of an unauthorized bank account.

In an email correspondence this week, Greisen says his attorney informed he had prevailed on the hostile workplace allegations and, likewise, he had been notified that he had done nothing of a “criminal or civil” nature in the case involving bank records and cash.

Greisen is appealing his termination.

A source of some confusion for some readers has been the city’s option to terminate Greisen’s employment “without cause.” The tactic is not entirely unusual. The city’s employment contract with Greisen allows either side to terminate the contract with a 30-day notice without cause — both sides agreed to and signed the contract. It seems like the path of least resistance for the city; with cause, the city must argue a case for Greisen’s termination, possibly demonstrate progressive discipline, and ultimately substantiate its claims. To take the without-cause route simply requires the notification and a 60-day severance payout. It’s less messy and has a clearly defined end game.

Another misstatement we see on social media is that Greisen has committed a crime. At no point in our coverage has there been an allegation of criminal wrongdoing, despite the fact internal investigations found he violated city rules about police chases — to the detriment of public safety, we believe — and were necessary based on the other claims.

The arguments for and against Greisen’s role as the city’s police chief have been ongoing since August. When they were first raised, supporters argued it was a “witch hunt” that had been orchestrated by former City Manager Jon Hanken. As we now know, the City Council ultimately fired Hanken for, we believe, exploring allegations against Greisen, though the council has been cagey and has provided no public explanation for the firing. At the City Council meeting where Hanken’s contract was terminated, a Scappoose police officer expressed his dismay with the council, intimating it was interfering with the due process of exploring the chief’s actions. It should be noted, too, the allegations against Greisen originated from Scappoose Police Department officers.

The Scappoose City Council in December then approved a contract with Don Otterman, who had previously worked as the city manager and has a career’s worth of experience in the role. At the time, the city councilors expressed confidence in his ability to fairly view the situation, at least after an initial attempt to illegally bypass the city charter and impose limitations on Otterman.

Though we don’t know Otterman well, it’s difficult to believe he entered the position with a preexisting bias against Greisen, or that he initiated the contract termination without any basis for doing so.

Which brings us to a fundamental need for the community: disclosure of the investigative reports and a full discussion of those reports.

As anyone who has any experience in the workforce knows, it doesn’t take a criminal action, or one that could result in a civil lawsuit, to be dismissed from a job. We have no reason to disbelieve Greisen’s claims about his understanding of the investigative reports’ results, though, at this point, it’s not something we’re willing to accept without source documentation.

So far, the city has denied our requests to review the completed investigative reports, though it has kept the door open that we might be granted access after Greisen’s employment expires. The denial was sustained following our petition to Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison, who argued there is legal cause for the city to withhold the reports, at least until the investigations and disciplinary actions against Greisen conclude.

But, much as we implore our readers to consider this story in its full breadth, we also share in the frustration that not all of the facts are available to make a truly informed opinion. Without disclosure of the investigative reports, the city is encouraging speculation, rumor and emotion to color dialogue about one of the city’s highest-ranking public officials. Instead, let’s have a look at the facts.

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