Steven W. Welty, the attorney representing former Susanville police officers Matthew Wood and Michael Bollinger, asked Michael Christian, the city’s new attorney, for a “date certain” in which the city would comply with a July ruling from a Lassen County Superior Court judge to review its decision to terminate the officers.
“It is my understanding pursuant to your letter dated Nov. 22, 2019 that you are now representing the city of Susanville in regard to the Writ of Mandate cases currently filed against the city by Matthew Wood and Michael Bollinger,” Welty wrote Christian. “As you are aware, the superior court granted the writs and remanded the administrative actions back to the city for reconsideration based on the court’s findings. As of the date of this letter, I have not received any indication that the city has complied with the court’s decision. It has been more than four months since the decision was issued. The city has had more than enough time to comply.
“Please provide a date certain that the city will comply with the court’s decision in these cases. Otherwise, I will need to file an order to show cause with the court as to why there has not been compliance. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.”
Mike Wilson, the city’s administrative officer, said he was not aware of the letter, and he would contact Christian. The matter has been discussed several times in closed session during recent city council meetings.
After reviewing the administrative record of the city’s investigation of Wood’s and Bollinger’s conduct, Candace Beason, a visiting Lassen County Superior Court judge ruled, “The court finds that Wood and Bollinger exercised a legal right when they individually filed grievances to the hiring process to fill the position of Susanville Chief of Police. There is no evidence in the record to establish a malicious intent in filing the grievances or the police report to document the unauthorized use of Wood’s signature to obtain confidential information. The Susanville City Council’s factual findings demonstrate an imputation of malice to both petitioners that taints the findings of misconduct and the decision to terminate petitioners’ employment.”
The judge remanded the case back to the council “for reconsideration and additional findings” based on the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community v. County of Los Angles decision in which,“A body must render findings sufficient to apprise the court of the basis for the agency’s action. The administrative body
must draw legally relevant sub-conclusions supportive of its ultimate decision so that the court can trace and examine the agency’s mode of analysis … Additionally, transparency of analysis persuades the parties that the administrative body conduced its decision-making in a careful, reasoned and equitable manner.”
City Attorney Jessica Ryan announced Susanville Council’s decision in the appeals of two terminated veteran police officers at the council’s Wednesday, June 6, 2018 meeting.
“In closed session on May 28, 2018, the council voted to deny the appeals of personnel decisions made regarding a police department lieutenant and police department sergeant,” Ryan said.
The city attorney said councilmember Mendy Schuster cast the lone dissenting vote in a 4-1 decision. Mayor Kathie Garnier, Mayor pro tem Joe Franco and councilmembers Brian Wilson and Kevin Stafford voted to deny the officers’ appeals.
The two officers were allegedly placed on administrative leave and fired in 2017 because of their roles in the filing a crime report alleging forgery and impersonation of a police officer in regard to a document that was part of the hiring process of former Susanville Police Chief John King.