Although a final decision has not yet been made, Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian is focusing on Mike Navarre as the city’s next police chief.
Navarre recently retired as police chief in Toledo.
At a council meeting last Monday, Seferian called Navarre the best candidate for the job. There are six candidates who applied for the position, including acting chief Paul Magdich. Seferian said he had contacted Navarre, who did not apply, to ask if he would consider being chief.
But several command officers, some of whom attended the meeting, urged Seferian to hire a chief from within the Oregon police department.
“It’s a little frustrating to us that we haven’t been involved in this process,” Lt. Hank Everitt said at the meeting. “We’d like to have this process be transparent.”
He noted that eight members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) command officers union had written a letter to Seferian and Administrator Mike Beazley on July 7 urging them to hire from within the department.
According to a copy of the letter, obtained by The Press, the union had endorsed Magdich as chief.
“Our union supports promotion from within, therefore we would endorse acting chief Paul Magdich for the chief of police position,” states the letter, adding that Magdich has over 25 years experience in the department “and knows the strength and weakness within the Division.”
The letter also urged that the city reinstate the second lieutenant position because it would “create a structure in the police department that would improve communication and work distribution.”
“It’s been since June Mr. Beazley and Mr. Seferian interviewed us and we gave them some input. We also gave them a written statement from our union. Our stance, basically, is we’d like to see acting chief Magdich be given a chance at the position. We’d also like to see returned the two lieutenant system. Everybody had a clean chain of command. Right now, the way it’s currently set up, there are five people from the patrolman level to the sergeant level to myself who report directly to the chief, which is just an awkward way of doing things. Either give Magdich a chance, or go out and publicly look and get the best candidate you can. This is a great community. It pays well. I don’t think we should use a back door process just to give the job to someone that none of us really know.”
Everitt said he was unaware it was Navarre who was being considered for the position, just that it was “someone from the City of Toledo.”
“We’ve never heard anyone say `We wish you guys were as good as Toledo.’ They always say `You guys are so much better than Toledo,”’ said Everitt. “As far as economics goes, we operated for our entire existence, except for two years, with one man as chief, two lieutenants, sergeants and patrolmen. And it seemed to work fine. But with the assistant chief’s position, which cost the city over $100,000 per year with benefits, our position is, we don’t need that. There’s a lot of things we could use that for besides giving it to just a figurehead position that we’ve proven over the years that we don’t need.”
Seferian said he believed the process in choosing a new chief was fair. He said he had spoken to officers within the department who were interested in the position. He also said he was told that some of the command officers were “srrong armed” into signing the letter.
“I can assure you they weren’t,” said Everitt. “I can show you their signatures, which I think should hold more weight than what you’re saying.”
Everitt said eight out of the department’s 10 command officers signed the letter.
“That’s 80-percent and it’s a pretty good number,” he said.
Everitt said he was disappointed that the city did not advertise for the chief’s position.
“This is the second chief’s appointment in a row that we have not advertised. We haven’t looked to see who wants the job in a community like this with all it has to offer with what you guys are willing to pay,” said Everitt. “Who knows what’s out there? Frankly, I’m concerned about a guy whose legacy is former chief of police for Toledo. And then this is just a retirement job [for him]. He’ll be a triple dipper, basically. You guys saw what happened with the school board when they gave their administrators a raise. Now we got a guy who has a pension, a DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) fund, and we’re going to give him another $100,000 per year? That looks bad in the community. And to do this without ever advertising to see who else could make a difference here.”
After the meeting, Seferian said that the officers were under the impression he was going to hire Navarre at the meeting and pay him an annual salary of $120,000, none of which is true.
“We were just starting to get council informed of what our plan was and bringing them up to speed. So we were not at that level yet. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what kind of support I would have to try and appoint Navarre,” said Seferian. “I wasn’t that far along yet. In the end, it’s okay. It’s in the works a little faster now. I would have preferred a couple of weeks to see if there was a consensus of support for him. If I have support, I will be hiring Mike Navarre as chief.”
Beazley told The Press on Wednesday that he and the mayor had met individually with the union leadership of command officers and patrolmen during their search for a chief to guage their input on the direction of the department.
“A letter went out to everyone that said `We’re beginning the process of selecting the next chief. If you’re interested in talking about the condition of the police department, please contact us and set up a meeting,”’ said Beazley. “Were they formal job interviews? In most cases, they weren’t. The vast majority of people who came in didn’t have any interest in being chief. We just wanted to talk about the direction of the department. That’s what the mayor wanted to use to help shape his process in selecting the next chief,” said Beazley.
He also said the administration would not add another lieutenant to the department and eliminate the assistant chief’s position, as was requested in the command officers’ letter. Beazley said it was the city’s previous administration that had eliminated one of two lieutenants in the police department and created the assistant chief position.
“There was a feeling on the part of the council and administration at the time that there should be more than one person in the command structure that wasn’t also in the bargaining unit,” said Beazley. “That system will remain in place.”
Beazley noted that an annual salary has not yet been determined for Navarre, if he becomes chief, but it would be between $80,000 and $90,000.
“City council has established a pay range by ordinance for the chief and deputy chief. And he would be paid in that same pay range as the current chief,” said Beazley.
The city has been without a police chief since Chief Richard Stager retired eight months ago.