Chief Doug Greisen accuses city officials of targeting him because of questions

GreisenScappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen indicates in an April 11 appeal filed with the city of Scappoose over his termination that recent investigations into his actions were brought on by city officials with a personal vendetta against him for his questioning of their conduct.

Greisen claims he was terminated for questioning the practices of former City Manager Jon Hanken and interim City Manager Don Otterman. He writes in the appeal that city officials systematically separated him from the police department and sought to destroy his reputation.

Greisen has been on paid administrative leave since September, awaiting the results of — and the city’s subsequent deliberations on — investigations into his conduct.

Greisen’s contract terminates May 8.

Months of investigations

Greisen states in his appeal the termination is “wrong, unlawful, and should be reversed in its entirety.”

Otterman issued Greisen’s notice of termination “without cause,” a condition allowed in the 2002 contract between Greisen and the city. But the decision to terminate without cause followed multiple investigations performed by a private Salem-based firm called Local Government Personnel Institute.

Two separate investigations were focused on allegations Greisen ran a hostile workplace and the discovery of a bank bag in his office full of cash and receipts tied to an unauthorized account. The results of those investigations have not been made public.

An earlier investigation — also conducted by LGPI — found Greisen mismanaged a police chase in February 2013 by authorizing a subordinate officer to ram a fleeing hit-and-run misdemeanor offender at speeds considered to be the use of lethal force. The investigation found the chief had violated 10 departmental policies during the chase. Hanken placed Greisen on a two-week unpaid leave of absence following the results of that investigation.

In his appeal, Greisen claims Hanken launched the first investigation not for his violations, but because the chief was questioning Hanken’s budgeting process. Greisen states that, although he is not trained on financial issues, he was asking questions to become better informed.

Greisen says the ‘no cause’ termination is disingenuous and unlawful for a number of reasons.

“Harshly disciplining someone because they started to question city manager practices is wrong and unlawful,” Greisen wrote in an email to the Spotlight. “Launching multiple unjustified ‘investigations’ when the City Manager’s bullying harsh discipline is appealed is wrong and unlawful. Insidiously propagating a false public perception of me as a villain or menace because I didn’t buckle in the face of the city manager and other’s attempted intimidation, is wrong and unlawful.  Treating the sham ‘investigations’ as if they are Watergate, holding on to completed results for months for strategic political reasons, and not returning me to service where I could earn my salary, is wrong and unlawful.”

Review committee

EricksonThe appeal triggered the formation of a city committee, called the Personnel Review Committee, that reviews city manager decisions regarding staff discipline.

Committee members, selected by names drawn from a hat, were chosen April 21 and include Councilors Jeff Erickson, Larry Meres and Jason Meshell.

The PRC, according to city ordinance, is expected to determine whether Otterman’s firing of the chief adhered to law and policy. It will then submit its recommendation to the city manager.

Mayor Scott Burge voluntarily removed his name from PRC consideration upon Greisen’s request.

“I strongly object to Mayor Burge putting himself in place to be appointed to the PRC,” Greisen said at the Monday meeting. “As set forth in my appeal, Mayor Burge has a conflict of interest that is directly related to actions taken by him as interim City Manager — actions which involve the continuous sham investigations, concealing information from the city council, myself and the citizens of Scappoose.”

Asked for comment on Greisen’s claims, Burge said, “I can’t, just because I’m not 100 percent sure what he’s talking about.”

MeresCouncilor Mark Reed was selected to be on the committee prior to the drawing of Erickson’s name, but declined “based on the perception of the conflict of interest.”

Targeted by city officials?

The appeal states Hanken’s management style did not foster communication between he and department heads and that Hanken did not hold regularly scheduled meetings.

Burge said he did not want to comment on the appeal, preferring to allow the PRC to deliberate without interference. He noted, however, that he had never observed any problems with Hanken’s budgeting process, adding that the city’s budget is voted on by the council and that is has drastically improved over the past 10 years.

“The budget 10 years ago had little ending fund balance,” Burge said. “We have a $1.1 million dollar ending fund balance in the latest budget.”

In the appeal, Greisen notes that he was terminated for pressing officials for transparency in their dealings. Meshell

“I was fired because I called for straight answers, honest dealing, and open and transparent government,” the appeal states. “When I questioned, and then resisted, insidious insider action, the former City Manager together with the City Attorney (and later the temporary outside replacement City Manager) systematically separated me from the Police Department, sought to destroy my reputation in my home town, deprived me of any ‘name-clearing’ hearing, and then when they thought I was sufficiently drained and discredited, proceeded to fire me as discreetly as they could.”

While Greisen told the Spotlight he did make a formal request for a name-clearing hearing, which was denied by the city, Burge told the Spotlight he had not seen any formal request from Greisen requesting such a hearing.

Asked what caused Hanken to go after him, as he claims, Greisen replied via email, “I have some theories, but frankly I was never able to get a good understanding of what dark forces motivated that man. Again, given sufficient latitude (perhaps including a review of emails between Hanken and the [city attorneys], I have confidence that the PRC would be able to drill down on specifics.)”

Police chase

The appeal focuses largely on the February 2013 police chase, which Greisen refers to only as a “successful February 4, 2013 traffic stop” in his appeal.

“In the common-sense words of one citizen, ‘the bad guy was caught, and nobody got hurt,’” he wrote.

The resulting two-week suspension, Greisen said, was a message from Hanken to quiet the chief and was unrelated to the police chase.

“I later learned that the [notice of discipline] truly had nothing to do with the traffic stop, but rather was a chess move by the City Manager to ‘put me in my place’ and to shut me up,” Greisen wrote.

Greisen appealed the two-week suspension, resulting in the first PRC made up of councilors Barbara Hayden, Meshell and Reed. That PRC, formed last November, called the LGPI report into the police chase “an erroneous mischaracterization” of the incident and recommended Hanken rescind the discipline he issued to Greisen.

In his latest appeal, Greisen claims his earlier challenge to Hanken’s notice of discipline embarrassed the former city manager, who then decided to work against the chief.

“At that point, the former City Manager, full of spite, made up his mind to bury me,” Greisen wrote. “He may have been unnerved by my inquiries, but he was certainly fearful of my exercising my rights and demanding transparency of government.”

The appeal continues to indicate Hanken used other officers in the department to launch more investigations against the chief.

“Seeing an opening, the disgruntled employee who had been used to initiate the traffic stop ‘complaint’ was further utilized to make ‘accusations’, which the former City Manager used to launch the second and third investigations,” Greisen writes in his appeal.

Greisen claims Hanken or another individual with “inside information” leaked half-truths or lies to the press while he was barred by the city attorney from communicating with media.

Burge said he did not know of any half-truth or lies fed to the press from the city.

Asked for specifics on the alleged misinformation leaked to the press, Greisen said the answers lie in his appeal and its attached documentation. While letters from Greisen’s attorney to Scappoose’s former City Attorney Ron Guerra note the city “maliciously leaked falsehoods and unfavorable half-truths to the press” and asked for a “cessation of deceptive press leaks,” no specific information on the nature of the alleged misinformation is contained in Greisen’s appeal or supporting material.

Discipline and lingering investigations

In November, the Scappoose City Council voted to terminate Hanken’s contract, resulting in the December hire of Otterman as interim city manager.

Greisen claims Otterman, in upholding the discipline initially issued by Hanken and in terminating the chief’s contract, was acting in retaliation to the chief’s demand for transparency in the city.

“The current temporary City Manager was brought in to get rid of me; without comment, he summarily dismissed the PRC’s many weeks of review of the [notice of discipline]. My inquiries and demands for transparency were getting too close for comfort,” Greisen wrote.

While the chief claims Otterman was hired to get rid of him, the city accepted Otterman’s contract through a unanimous vote of city councilors on Dec. 13, including those making up the first PRC, which recommended exoneration for the chief. At the same meeting, the council voted to change the city’s municipal code to strip the city manager position of the authority to hire and fire staff. That decision was later reversed as it conflicted with the Scappoose City Charter.

In his appeal, Greisen writes that the termination of Hanken made him look forward to returning to work. Two investigations into the chief, however, were still underway.

“There never was a timely or proper release of the second and third investigations (rather, I have proof that the city sat on completed investigations while making false representations about their status during City Council meetings; and the city selectively released the reports, even to the Scappoose Spotlight, while never sending it to me or my lawyer),” Greisen claims in his appeal.

The city of Scappoose has denied Spotlight requests to view the results of the second and third investigations into Greisen, despite the chief’s claims.

Greisen made a final note in his email to the Spotlight that city officials, hired from outside Scappoose, have taken the city for themselves.

“Why can’t Scappoose handle its own issues?” he asked. “It really irks me that outsiders have high-jacked [sic] our city. We have many bright and talented people in this community, and most importantly, they care about the community. The proof is in the fact that the PRC does not get paid monetary compensation (compare that with the payments made to others).”

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