TS - Blue Lake ends Gundersen's employment

Blue Lake ends Gundersen's employment

The Blue Lake City Council decided Tuesday night in closed session that the city will end the police chief's employment effective May 5th.

”David Gundersen will no longer be the chief, or on the payroll,” said Mayor Sherman Schapiro.

Since Gundersen was arrested on suspicion of spousal rape in February, residents have been asking for his removal, but the city said it could not act until its insurance company analyzed the city's risk for a lawsuit.

The decision followed a public meeting focused on the city manager's job performance. Residents submitted a 53-signature petition to remove Wiley Buck as manager and Blue Lake Officer Jody Poulnott announced that he and three other employees would be submitting a letter of no confidence regarding Buck's performance.

Since Gundersen's arrest, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has been handling emergency calls for the area. Without an active supervisor, Blue Lake officers have not been able to patrol and can only handle animal control calls and administrative work. The city has been discussing various solutions to the lack of patrolling, including a long-term contract with the Sheriff's Office and the elimination of the police department.

At a previous City Council meeting, Patrik Griego, working for the legal defense fund of the Police Officers Research Association of California -- or PORAC -- said that Poulnott has experience as a sergeant and could be promoted immediately, but Buck has said it was not an option being discussed currently.

Due to overwhelming public comment on the future of the police department, a public meeting will be held on April 29 at Mad River Grange at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the issue further, but several residents have made comments about the slow pace of action, some targeting Buck's performance.

City Attorney Richard Platz said there are procedures in place to deal with personnel complaints, but he won't know what process will follow until he sees the letter from the employees, which Poulnott said he submitted Wednesday morning.
”On the assumption that it's about him (Wiley Buck), the City Council would review it,” Platz said, adding that processes for personnel issues are confidential for the protection of the employees.

Poulnott told council members he and the other employees just want to be able to discuss actions they allege Buck has taken, that the council may not know about. The complaint was not only coming from the police department, but involves other departments as well, Poulnott said.

Schapiro said Poulnott was not following procedure by announcing the letter during the meeting.

”I don't think that was appropriate,” Schapiro said.

As for the public petition, Schapiro said the council will discuss the matter at the next closed session since it is also regarded as a personnel compliant. He said he thinks it's an issue that deserves discussion.

”I don't think we should ignore a petition from the public, they may not like the action that we take, but we shouldn't ignore them,” Schapiro said.

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 04/10/2008 01:27:29 AM PDT

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