TS - In tense meeting, council puts off action on jailed police chief

In tense meeting, council puts off action on jailed police chief

To the dismay of residents, the Blue Lake City Council said Tuesday night they could not take any action regarding the arrest and jailing of the city's police chief until its next meeting.

Police Chief David Gundersen's arrest on suspicion of spousal rape on Friday prompted the council to address the public's questions regarding the matter. But because Gundersen's arraignment was not scheduled until today, the council said it cannot discuss issues of his employment or reimbursement for his insurance fees.

”This is not for tonight's meeting,” said Mayor Sherman Schapiro. The council moved for the discussion to be placed on the next city council meeting scheduled for Feb. 26.

Gundersen is currently on paid administrative leave, said City Manager Wiley Buck, bringing groans from the public during a meeting that got tense at times.

”Where are we sending the check? To the jail?” asked resident Patty Meger.

Gundersen's attorney has said in previous interviews that the chief is paying his own legal fees.

Currently, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department is handling all 911 calls in the Blue Lake area. Buck said at least one of the two Blue Lake officers who were on leave due to a work-related injuries will be back by Friday or Monday to handle animal control issues.

Resident Jean Lynch asked the council if she could petition to have the sheriff's department handle Blue Lake's jurisdiction permanently, as it has in the past. Other residents voiced their support.

”I don't want another police department here,” said Wendy Brown. “I've had enough.”

When speakers called for Gundersen's removal from the position, the city council explained that the city manager decided personnel matters. Buck said personnel-related issues are not discussed with the public.

For the residents who were present, Gundersen's arrest was the last straw of what they called years of questionable actions.
Gundersen was recently accused of falsifying Department of Motor Vehicles records, which led to the suspension of a Blue Lake man's drivers license in 2005. In October, Superior Court Judge Michael Brown granted a motion to dismiss those charges against Gundersen.

In another controversial issue, after an emotional discussion the city council voted 3 to 1 to adopt a resolution asking the Blue Lake Rancheria to extend the amount of time it has given Blue Lake mobile home residents to move out.

Councilwomen Marlene Smith, the city's tribal liaison, dissented, saying she was afraid the resolution would damage the working relationship the city forged with the rancheria.

Councilwomen Arlene Jones argued that the city needed to publicly support the residents with the resolution, and quickly.
”Every hour that we continue to leave these people in their straits is another hour they wonder where they will go,” she said.

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 02/13/2008 01:27:27 AM PST
Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or dtam@times-standard.com.