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Pacific police chief's dismissal strains council-mayor relationship
Cy Sun's recent sacking of John Calkins as Pacific's chief of police has councilmembers questioning the mayor's communications with them.
"Our city has totally unraveled. I've never seen a situation like this before," said Councilman Clint Steiger, who has served on the council for 15 years off-and-on. "Our attorney has never seen anything like this before. Our insurance company has never seen anything like this. It's just completely unraveled."
The controversy centers on Sun's contacting of KOMONews.com to inform the station of his decision to fire Calkins before he even clued in members of the council, Steiger said.
On May 21, KOMONews.com broke the story. In a letter released to the news organization, Sun said that Calkins' 2009 investigation for misconduct, as well as an outburst this year after a Jan. 17 council meeting, factored into his decision. He added that he was concerned about continuing "negative, unsatisfactory, damaging publicity for the City of Pacific."
For Steiger, Councilman Josh Putnam, and other members of the Pacific council, the story was the first they heard about the termination.
"I can't speak for other members of the council, but personally I first heard about the chief's termination after our May 21 council workshop, when KOMO broke the story," Putnam said via email. "The mayor somehow neglected to mention it in his May 21 report to council."
Although the subject of firing Calkins, who had been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 17, had come up at a May 14 executive session, Steiger said no decision was made.
"We went into executive session and the attorney explained the options, and the mayor didn't respond to anything," Steiger said.
Legally, according to Pacific's municipal code, the mayor is within his rights to terminate the head of police, an appointed position, without the consent of the city council.
Steiger and Putnam, however, said the termination caught them completely flat footed.
"It was no secret that the chief had been placed on an extraordinarily long administrative leave by the mayor," Putnam said in an email. "And it's true the council had repeatedly asked to be informed of the chief's status and the mayor's intentions. But Chief Calkins was very definitely not terminated by the mayor and council at the May 14 Council meeting."
Steiger added that he felt Sun handled the whole affair poorly.
"Number one, the first thing he should have done is actually talk to the man and personally explain his concerns," Steiger said. "That should have been his first step. He's never talked to him in person and let him work this out."
Steiger added that, as far as he knew, there has been no face-to-face discussion between Mayor Sun and Calkins regarding his suspension and subsequent firing. He noted that Calkins told him his official notification of being let go came courtesy of a letter.
"Before he (Calkins) got the letter, the mayor had already released the information to the press," he said.
Sun has not returned calls or emails requesting comment. He replied to a May 25 email request for more information regarding Calkins' termination with, "No! I don't want to talk about it."