Former Oregon Police Chief Tom Gulch told city council before a packed room on Oct. 12 that Mayor Marge Brown had tried to interfere on several occasions while he was investigating her son, Officer Jeff Brown.
Gulch spoke after council unanimously agreed to lift a clause in a separation agreement he had with the city that banned him from speaking negatively about the city administration. Councilman Bill Myers last week asked council to lift the clause after he read about it in The Press.
Gulch had wanted to comment about complaints that were made against Officer Brown, who was disciplined for various violations following an internal affairs investigation, but believed the separation agreement prohibited him from doing so.
At the meeting, Mayor Brown asked Gulch if she had ever asked him not to investigate her son.
Gulch said there was an investigation done a year earlier at Bay Park Hospital regarding allegations of sexual impropriety involving Officer Brown.
“When I brought that investigation to you, you told me, `Why are you going to investigate what is just a rumor?”’ recalled Gulch. “And I explained to you at that time, it was the obligation of the police division to investigate rumors because we had to do one of two things: Put the rumor to rest, or substantiate the claims and make it a full investigation. Yes, Mrs. Brown, you did question me on why I was investigating that particular incident.”
There was another incident in which Officer Brown had allegedly got into a physical altercation with someone in a workout club, said Gulch.
“When I brought that investigation to your attention, you indicated your displeasure…” Gulch said to Mayor Brown.
Myers asked Gulch if anyone in the administration had ever approached him to take, or not take, action that would have had an impact on the police division.
Asked to lie
Gulch said there was an incident in 2003, when Administrator Ken Filipiak allegedly asked him to lie on a four year COPS grant questionnaire sent by the federal government.
“One of the stipulations of the grant is that the manpower of the police division must remain the same from the time the grant is awarded until the final fourth year,” explained Gulch. But the manpower of the police division had dropped by the fourth year, which he had acknowledged on the questionnaire.
Filipiak, alleged Gulch, told him to change his answer to reflect that the manpower in the police division had not been reduced.
“We even had a meeting in his office where I sat across from him. And he told me again that he wanted me to change that number…and if I didn’t, I was being insubordinate,” said Gulch. “Mrs. Brown sat directly on my right when that exchange took place.”
Gulch said he “was not about to lie on a federal document.”
Filipiak was at the meeting, but did not comment.
Myers asked Gulch whether he was given a directive or suggestion to take adverse action against any member or members of the police division.
Gulch said there was an incident in which the mayor asked him to find ways to get rid of a lieutenant and two sergeants who gave depositions in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by Candace Elliot, a former police officer who was dismissed during her probationary period. Elliot claimed she was dismissed, in part, because she had rejected the sexual advances of Officer Brown, her training officer. The city eventually settled with Elliot for $183,000 without admitting wrongdoing.
Gulch said Mayor Brown was “very upset” by the lieutenant’s and sergeants’ depositions.
“In particular, there was a letter from a sergeant in support of Miss Elliot that the mayor took particular umbrage with,” he said.
Gulch alleged that Mayor Brown had said to him “in very clear terms, that she wanted me to find a way to get rid of the lieutenant and those two sergeants.”
“I told her there was no discipline process. I even have a letter I prepared to Mr. Filipiak based on the directive he sent to me questioning the process and insinuating we should have taken action,” said Gulch.
Just because the administration did not approve of the contents of the letter, or depositions “is no cause to try and find a way to get rid of those people,” said Gulch.
Gulch said he decided to come forward because Mayor Brown and Police Chief Rick Stager had made comments to The Press that violated the separation agreement in which the administration was prohibited from “saying or doing anything that would portray Gulch in a negative light.”
“The city administration has not honored that agreement. They have made public statements that, in my opinion, breached the settlement agreement,” said Gulch.
Mayor Brown lied when she told Gulch at a meeting on Oct. 5 she never told a reporter from The Press that he had been fired, said Gulch. Brown had told The Press last month that she had indeed fired Gulch.
“Not only did Mrs. Brown lie to me, but all who were present at the Oct. 5 city council meeting,” said Gulch.
“Mrs. Brown completely broke the dictates of the settlement. That statement is not only untrue, it clearly was a public statement that portrayed me in a negative light,” said Gulch.
Officer Brown, who is married, was suspended 20-days for repeatedly and illegally using a Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) to gain information about an ex-girlfriend, Tanya Hernandez, over a two-year period, according to a report of an internal affairs investigation that was released on Sept. 4.
Officer Brown was also reprimanded for interfering in the private business or affairs of another woman, Vicky Ferris, a teacher at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Elementary School. She had contacted police on May 28 to complain that he had allegedly portrayed her as a convicted felon, which threatened her employment.
Ferris, who is Hernandez’s sister-in-law, believes she was targeted because she had told Hernandez that Officer Brown “was taking advantage of her and would not be leaving his wife,” states the internal affairs report.
Ferris and Hernandez filed complaints with Oregon police alleging Officer Brown was harassing and stalking them.
Allegations that Brown had sex several times while on duty with another girlfriend, Nichole Rhoades, were dismissed because a report of Gulch’s investigation of the complaint in 2002 could not be found.
Rhoades claimed she and Officer Brown had sex while he was on duty at the Comfort Inn, at the No. 2 fire station on Wheeling Street, in the playground area of New Harvest Church on Seaman Road, and in the parking lot of Coy School on Wheeling Street.
Assistant Chief Paul Magdich, who led the internal affairs investigation, had sustained Rhoades’ allegations, meaning the investigation established sufficient evidence to clearly show that the wrongful act(s) alleged in the complaint did occur, according to the report.
Magdich said in the report that Rhoades “indicated the layout of the fire station in very accurate detail.”
Rhoades also stated she had told Gulch in a telephone conversation about the sexual encounters with Officer Brown while he was on duty, and that Gulch had told her that Brown would be suspended for three days.
Rhoades’ father, Tom, also told Magdich he had called Gulch to complain about Officer Brown.
The report states that there was “information that Chief Gulch made a city official aware of the complaints directed at Brown.” The city official assumed that Chief Gulch investigated the matter several years ago.
Stager said in an article that appeared in The Press on Oct. 5 that Officer Brown could have been terminated for other allegations in the report, but was not because Gulch was aware of the allegations “and did nothing.”
Stager rejected Magdich’s recommendation that Officer Brown be suspended 15-days regarding Rhoades’ allegations, stating in the report that “punishing Brown now would probably violate his contractual rights, an agreement between the city and the Oregon Police Patrolmen’s Association.”
At Monday’s meeting, Gulch disputed Rhoades’ claims, saying she had never made allegations to him that she and Officer Brown had sex while he was on duty. Rather, Rhoades had complained of telephone harassment and menacing by Officer Brown, which had been investigated, he said.
“There was no complaint made of sexual impropriety at that time to anyone within the Oregon Police Division,” said Gulch.
Mayor Brown, who is seeking re-election next month, did not return calls to The Press for comment.
Seferian, who is challenging Brown, beat her in last month’s mayoral primary.