Public awaits results of city investigation into police chief’s hiring controversy

Several members of the public anxiously await the results of the independent investigation launched by the city of Susanville into the process it followed hiring John King as the city’s new police chief.

Despite the fact the city has not released the results of the investigation yet, some in the community already believe the inquiry has morphed into a witch-hunt against the whistleblowers in the police department who raised questions about the new chief’s hiring process in the first place. The newspaper believes both of these officers applied for the police chief’s position.

As evidence, these members of the public allege the individual hired to conduct the investigation delayed its start by immediately going on vacation. They also note with grave suspicion that Susanville police officers are under a gag order, and the police lieutenant who allegedly filed a crime report alleging impersonation of an officer and forgery currently is on administrative leave. They also allege Jared Hancock, the city’s administrative officer, expressed his opinion the two local candidates (both of whom reportedly met the minimum standards included in the recruitment brochure) would never serve as Susanville’s chief of police.

Some of these readers say as the details surrounding King’s hiring trickle out, it appears to them the Susanville City Council abdicated its authority to Hancock, putting him in charge of hiring the chief rather than the council. But Hancock told the newspaper the council voted unanimously to direct him to move forward with King’s hiring. He said that couldn’t be revealed to the public for personnel privacy reasons until the process was completed.

At this point, this newspaper will give the city the benefit of the doubt, and we encourage the investigator, the city administrator and the councilmembers to conclude this investigation as soon as possible and answer the questions we posed to them on March 21: “Does King meet the minimum qualifications as outlined in the city’s recruitment materials, and how might the city’s decision to use other criteria affect others who did not apply because they thought they did not meet those minimum standards? Did the city violate state law and Police Officer Standards and Training requirements when it hired King as police chief? When did the Susanville City Council vote to hire King and why wasn’t that action taken during an open, public session? Did the council take a vote to hire King in closed session, and if so, why wasn’t that action reported to the public as required by the Brown Act, California’s Open Meeting law? Is it even legal for the city to hire the police chief in a closed session? When was King sworn in? Why wasn’t that a public ceremony? Did the city rely on an allegedly forged document in King’s hiring process? If such a document was forged, who did it and why?

As Mike Taborski, the newspaper’s publisher, said two weeks ago, “We hope the city will put this issue to rest as quickly as possible. Taking ownership and answering these questions will help reinforce trust in handling the public’s business. We will continue to pursue the answers.”