Third party investigator has delivered their report to the City of Prineville attorney and the attorneys for Chief Eric Bush

Nine months have passed since Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush was put on paid administrative leave for an undisclosed personnel matter.

City officials hope to finally make a decision about his future employment by the middle of the next month, following the completion of a third-party investigation into matter by Local Government Personnel Institute.

“It seems that every time we think that it’s just about done, something else happens,” said city attorney Carl Dutli, “but our hope is that by mid-July ... the city will have made its decision what to do.”

Dutli said the report completed by the investigating organization is now in the hands of both the city attorney and as well as Bush and his attorneys, and each party is currently reviewing its contents.

A regional broadcast news outlet reported that the city would make the report public following a subsequent investigation by the city. The information was attributed to Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe, who insists it is not correct.

“I don’t know that the report will ever be made public,” she said. “Employees have the right to have privacy and I have no idea if the report will ever be made public. That is a confidential report on an employee matter.”

Dutli confirmed her belief, but offered a scenario in which the report could be made public.

“The record is not a public record unless discipline is imposed,” he explained. “Even if discipline is imposed, you have a balancing test – the interest of the employee versus the public right to know. First you have to get to a point where discipline is imposed, and then you have to determine is it in the best interest of the citizens to get a copy of that report, or is it in the best interest of the employee to not release the report.”

The investigation, which originated last fall, has become a source of frustration for citizens and city officials alike, due to the substantial length of time that has passed. During a public city council meeting this spring, multiple residents questioned why the matter was dragging on while the city continues to pay him.

In response, Dutli and City Manager Steve Forrester expressed their frustration with the timeframe. They explained that the investigation continually brought new issues to light that had to be examined, and attempts to interview members of the military, due to Bush’s position as a brigadier general in the Oregon National Guard, proved difficult, further lengthening the inquiry.

Forrester said during the meeting that when Bush was initially put on leave, they had hoped to resolve the matter in no more than two months.

Roppe understands the frustration that has mounted over the past nine months, and expressed similar feelings on Thursday.

“Everybody is frustrated ... including me,” she said.

Nevertheless, she went on to stress that regardless of that frustration, the city council and staff has had to keep quiet on the matter and follow correct procedure in order to avoid jeopardizing the investigation.

“We have to go through every step for the benefit of the city and the benefit of Eric Bush,” she said.

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