City council to discuss officer firings

The Susanville City Council will be busy early next year discussing public employee discipline/dismissal/release of two veteran Susanville police officers.

According to a special meeting agenda announced Thursday, Dec. 7, the council will meet in closed session from 9 a.m. to noon and again from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, Wednesday, Jan. 10 and Friday, Jan. 12.

According to the agenda, the council will meet in closed session to “Consider appeals of Mathew Wood and Michael Bolinger (sic) as established by employee disciplinary procedures (Resolution No. 04-3848).”

Wood, a lieutenant, and Bollinger, a sergeant, were both veteran officers at the Susanville Police Department. They were reportedly put on administrative leave and then fired for their roles is allegedly filing a crime report alleging the impersonation of an officer and the forgery of Wood’s signature on a document used in the hiring of Susanville Police Chief John King.

Allegedly, Wood’s signature was photocopied onto a form he did not sign, leading to the filing of a complaint sent to the both Lassen County Grand Jury and the California Department of Justice.

The newspaper asked the city for a copy of the crime report, but Jessica Ryan, the city’s attorney, denied the newspaper’s request pursuant to Government Code Section 6254(f).

The newspaper also reached out to Susanville police officers for comment at the time, but they refused to discuss the matter because the department had issued a gag order banning them from talking about this issue with the newspaper.

“I can talk to you about anything else, but I can’t talk about this,” one officer said.

Bollinger filed a grievance with the city over the hiring process Dec. 22, 2016. The newspaper was unable to obtain a copy of Bollinger’s grievance, but it did obtain a copy of a response from Jared Hancock, the city administrator at the time.

According to Hancock’s response, Bollinger’s grievance cited three concerns — that King does not possess or be able to obtain a POST (Police Officer’s Standards and Training) Management Certificate within one year of appointment, the minimum standard in the recruitment announcement; that the new chief should have seven years of extensive California law enforcement experience with a minimum of three years at the management or mid-management level; and that the new chief be experienced in maintaining municipal operating budgets.

Hancock denied Bollinger’s grievance and noted according to a final job announcement for the position, the invitation for applications for the position of police chief for the city of Susanville explicitly provided that “any combination of experience and training that would provide the required knowledge and abilities will be considered.”

Neither Wood nor Bollinger are working as Susanville police officers. Wood was recently hired as a deputy by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, and Bollinger is working for a group home.
During an Oct. 17 Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting, Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon said, “Deputy Wood has approximately 25 years experience as a law enforcement officer.

He worked for the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer and a reserve deputy sheriff before leaving for employment with the Susanville Police Department. While serving at Susanville PD, he served as an officer, sergeant and lieutenant. He has a broad range of training and experience that will benefit the sheriff’s office and Lassen County.”