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Scappoose fires police chief Greisen

Termination to be effective May 8; provides 60-day severance


by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Outgoing Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen.Scappoose interim City Manager Don Otterman on Tuesday, April 8, notified Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen the city was terminating its employment contract with him, according to a press release from the city.

While the notice issued to Greisen states he is being terminated without cause, the action comes on the heels of multiple internal investigations into his conduct as chief. Greisen has been on a paid leave of absence since September pending the outcome of the investigations.

The city expects the termination to be effective May 8, according to the press release. Until then, Greisen will remain on paid leave. The termination provides Greisen with a 60-day severance payment, the release said.

In an email to the Spotlight, Greisen said he plans to appeal the termination and indicated he still expects to return to work for the city.

“I have appreciated these last 14 years I have been allowed to serve [the Scappoose citizens] as their chief. It has been a privilege to serve my home community, and to serve the many good people who live here. I was looking forward to continuing to serve,” Greisen wrote. “I intend to appeal the city manager’s termination decision, and, as strange as it sounds, despite the way these issues have been mishandled these last several months, I look forward to returning to work on behalf of the City.”

Otterman said he plans to leave the hiring of a new chief up to the city’s new city manager, also a position the city needs to fill following the ouster of former City Manager Jon Hanken in November.

“At this point I am going to leave that up to the new city manager that comes in, hopefully by the first of June,” Otterman said. “At this point, no changes will be made in staffing. [Lt.] Norm Miller will remain acting police chief.”

The decision appears to conclude two investigations into Greisen stemming from allegations he ran a hostile workplace and the discovery of bank records tied to an unauthorized account and cash found in a locked drawer in his office.

Greisen was also issued an unpaid two-week leave of absence in September for mismanaging a police chase in February 2013, wherein he broke 10 departmental policies by authorizing a subordinate officer to ram a fleeing vehicle at speeds considered to be the use of lethal force.

Since he was placed on leave in September, Greisen has received his monthly salary, a figure that totaled $56,851 as of March 25, according to records obtained by the Spotlight. Greisen’s annual salary as police chief was $102,681, according to city budget documents.

Records still withheld

Although Greisen has been issued a notice of termination, the city is withholding two investigative reports into his conduct, carried out by a private Salem-based firm called Local Government Personnel Institute, for the foreseeable future. Otterman denied requests for the Spotlight to view the results of the LGPI investigations into the allegations against Greisen.

The Spotlight petitioned Otterman’s denial of a request to view the investigative report into the matter of the unauthorized account to Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison in January, who responded with a denial Monday, April 7. Atchison argued that since the city was still determining what to do with the results of the investigation, it was not legally required to disclose the document to the public.

To date, the only LGPI report made public of the three surrounding Greisen has been into his mismanagement of the February 2013 police chase. Hanken, the city’s former manager, issued Greisen two weeks unpaid suspension for the violations the investigation found he committed. Greisen appealed that action, resulting in the formation of a three-member Personnel Review Committee that was tasked with determining whether Hanken’s discipline aligned with existing policy and law.

The PRC, made up of councilors Barbara Hayden, Jason Meshell and Mark Reed, in November called the LGPI report an “an erroneous mischaracterization” of the February incident and recommended Hanken rescind the discipline he issued to Greisen.

The city terminated Hanken’s contract weeks later with no public explanation. Included in his severance agreement is a non-disparagement clause, barring both him and the city from speaking unfavorably of one another.

Asked for a reaction to Otterman’s termination of Greisen, Meshell said his only comment on the matter was, “The Scappoose City Council did not call a vote to fire Scappoose Police Chief Greisen, as it is not within our authority to do so. The City of Scappoose interim City Manager, Don Otterman, fired Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen based on authority given him by the Scappoose City Charter.”

Hayden and Reed did not respond to calls from the Spotlight for comment before press time, nor did Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge.

Ongoing complaints

While Greisen’s termination seemingly brings the investigations to conclusion, an Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint related to the chief still hangs over the city. BOLI is a state agency aimed at protecting the rights of workers and citizens for equal, non-discriminatory treatment in the workplace.

Police Sgt. Doug Carpenter filed a complaint with BOLI against Scappoose Feb. 27, alleging the city carried out unlawful employment practices against him in retaliation for whistleblowing. As a result of the alleged retaliation, Carpenter claims in his complaint he is suffering from anxiety and has been on medical leave due to ongoing harassment.

Carpenter claims in his BOLI complaint that a report he wrote critical of Greisen for his conduct in the February 2013 police chase resulted in the chief’s launch of a campaign of retaliation against him. Carpenter eventually took this concern to Hanken, which sparked the second LGPI investigation into the chief based on allegations he ran a hostile workplace.

Carpenter also claims the city put an end to his employment benefits after he filed the report outlining Greisen’s missteps.

“[The] respondent has terminated my health insurance and other benefits, and my employment is in jeopardy, while Chief Greisen is currently on paid administrative leave and has been since September 8, 2013,” the complaint states.

Ashlee Albies, Carpenter’s attorney, said the city has so far neglected to provide Carpenter with any updates into the matter.

“He has not been compensated for his time off. They have not taken any action. They’ve just left him hanging,” she said. “It seems to me this investigation into the chief should have been concluded a long time ago.”