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OPINION: Scappoose council is out of line to consider discipline against Hanken

SPECIAL EDITORIAL


There is a Scappoose City Council meeting tonight in which the councilors are expected to meet to discuss the employment status of Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken. We have arrived at this information through several credible sources, and we have received numerous calls regarding this meeting.

Our understanding is that the City Council is considering terminating Hanken’s employment because of his supervisory position over Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen and his unwillingness to bury complaints and stop ongoing investigations into allegations the chief has been operating a retaliatory, negligent police force. Greisen, who is currently on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations he retaliated against a whistleblower in the department, is friends with several on the City Council.

The astonishing piece of this, from our perspective, is that Hanken has done nothing beyond the job he was hired to do. When two officers presented Hanken with their allegations that Greisen violated departmental policy during a Feb. 4 police pursuit, Hanken acted appropriately by employing an outside source to review the complaints.

This wasn’t a necessary step. Per his employment contract with the city and per city ordinance, Hanken could have acted to fire Greisen at that point and there is not a thing the City Council could have done about it.

But he didn’t.

He sought an unbiased and objective outside agency to look into the matter, which is exactly what he needed to do in a small town in which everybody knows everybody and the Greisen family name harkens back four decades. One city councilor, Donna Gedlich, said she even considers Greisen to be like her son.

If Hanken had buried the complaints, then, indeed, the City Council should be considering a discipline plan for him.

He did his job as public officer who is expected to manage the city in a way that doesn’t expose it to tort claims or fiscal irresponsibility. He did his job even in the face of widespread speculation that, if he didn’t bury the allegations, the City Council would fire him.

When the agency, called the Local Government Personnel Institute, found that, yes, the chief had negligently interposed himself in the February police pursuit, Hanken appropriately placed the chief on an unpaid 10-day suspension. Hanken even allowed Greisen to use his vacation time during the leave versus the chief suffering a financial hardship.

Following Greisen’s appeal of the discipline, however, members on the City Council acted to disparage the report through its formation of the Personnel Review Committee, or PRC.

The PRC, per city ordinance, is established to review whether the city manager’s actions in such discipline cases is in accordance with city policy and law. The PRC made no such determination in this case. Instead, it took the bizarre step of considering itself as an investigative agency and attempted to launch its own investigation from the ground up.

The PRC effort is fraught with omissions and unsupported contradictions with the independent agency’s findings. The councilors involved — Barbara Hayden, Mark Reed and Jason Meshell — are biased in favor of Greisen and grossly unqualified to undo a professional human resources investigation.

When it came down to a choice between Greisen and the best interest of the city of Scappoose, the PRC chose Greisen. And in doing so, the councilors involved demonstrated their utter failure as responsible representatives for the city.