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Bush report released: sides differ

The report details several alleged offenses including misuse of flex time, and falsification of time records


The Local Government Personnel Institute investigation of former Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush alleges 11 incidents that ultimately led to his termination.

The report details findings related to falsification of time records and misuse of flex time as well as the misuse of city’s equipment, email system, credit card, gas card and vehicle. It also alleges a failure to perform the duties as police chief, citing problems with communication, productivity, self-management, problem solving, interpersonal relations, teamwork, flexibility, dependability and community perception.

In a response emailed Wednesday, Bush's camp denied and challenged the findings.

The LGPI report was compiled after interviews with 13 people, including City Manager Steve Forrester and multiple city staff, and several members of the Prineville Police Department, including Captain Michael Boyd and Sergeants Jimmy O’Daniel, Ray Cuellar and JoAnne Bauer.

The 277-page report included narratives and transcripts from audio recorded interviews that scrutinized Bush’s use of flex time associated with his service in the Oregon National Guard. Concerns over his time off arose last year when city leaders learned that he would be serving in Korea during the month of August.

“In an internal review of Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush’s time sheets, it was noted that Chief Bush’s flex time hours were inconsistent with his peer group (other department managers),” LGPI investigator Aaron Olson stated. “Chief Bush had more hours than City Manager Steve Forrester expected. Mr. Forrester wasn’t able to reconcile Chief Bush’s reported hours on (his) Outlook Calendar, unit history, and overall knowledge of his attendance at work.”

The report stated that the investigation began on Sept. 3, 2013, following a phone conversation between Olson, Forrester and City Attorney Carl Dutli on Aug. 28.

Much of the investigation focused on alleged misuse of flex time, an honor system in which exempt (not eligible for overtime) salary city employees record hours earned, and discrepancies in the work time Bush claimed versus his hours logged in on official duty.

“All evidence shows that Chief Bush misused the City of Prineville’s Employee Handbook policy on flex time,” Olson reported. “After examining (his) time sheets, Outlook Calendar, CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) entries and utilizing other sources, I detected that there were at least 39 instances in which Chief Bush reported earning flex time, but the CAD hours didn’t reflect those hours he earned.”

Olson said he was unable to determine if the over-reporting of flex hours earned was intentional or gross negligence, but nevertheless concluded that the consistent pattern “shows a calculated disingenuous and misleading practice, which only serves to benefit Chief Bush in gaining additional work hours typically used to cover other non-job related priorities.”

The LGPI report was initially requested by multiple regional media outlets including the Central Oregonian, but the city declined its release. That denial was appealed to the Crook County District Attorney and the records were ordered to be released. The city made the report available on Tuesday afternoon.

The following Wednesday afternoon, Bush’s attorney Roxanne Farra, who is representing him in a $2.5 million lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination, emailed the Central Oregonian a statement claiming the LGPI report is provably false.

“The city is well aware of the many factual errors and blatant falsehoods contained in the report, which is costing taxpayers many tens of thousands of dollars to obtain,” Farra wrote.

She pointed out that Bush, through his attorneys, provided a 73-page response to the report with nearly 3,000 pages of supportive exhibits that contradicts the report and disproves the conclusions reached. The response, which addresses each finding point by point, is included as an exhibit in the complaint filed by Bush.

In the response, Farra challenged Olson’s findings on the flex time data saying, “What he conveniently omits to mention is that the initial September 2013 analysis that Mary Dethman (administrative assistant for the police department) and (Police Communications Director) Tobie Reynolds put together while Chief Bush was on military duty used the wrong data taken from the wrong calendar. That information, it would seem, would be important to the reader, yet Olson omits any mention of it whatsoever from his ‘investigative’ report.”

Farra later contends that a detailed analysis done by overlaying Bush’s flex time calendar, his time sheets, the CAD data, city council meeting dates, and his military order shows that he in fact understated his accrued flex time by half.

Regarding the falsification of time records, Olson stated that “corroborative witness statements and physical evidence proves that Chief Bush did not always perform his paid duties as police chief while on duty with the City of Prineville.”

The LGPI report went on to say that “Chief Bush admitted to doing military work on City of Prineville time. Chief Bush repeatedly conducted non-police and non-city activities while on duty that were linked to his off-duty employment with the Oregon Army National Guard.”

These activities included working on his military laptop in his office for military emails and the Internet, using city scanner and printer for military related matters, and ignoring his staff while using his military computer when they needed to talk to him.

Some of these allegations were touched on during interviews Olson conducted with multiple members of the police staff. Police Captain Michael Boyd told the investigator that he felt Bush was embezzling money from the city and said the chief was constantly absent from work.

“Captain Boyd indicated it has been rare when Chief Bush has worked 40 hours at the office and doesn’t know where (he) would have earned flex time,” Olson wrote.

Dethman said that Bush had become more forgetful and had noticed that he did military work at the police office. She told Olson that Bush conducts military conference calls from his office. He goes to Bend during the day to attend military meetings on duty time.

Allegations of misuse of the city email system and equipment were sustained after interviews revealed that Bush had likely forwarded emails received on his military computer to his city computer to scan and print.

An analysis of Bush’s emails between September 2008 and July 2013 was conducted in which 450 were identified as forwards from his military email account to his city account. The emails included 416 attachments amounting to 3,404 digital pages.

Olson reported that there was a subset of 138 emails that originated from the police department’s multi-function printer or scanner device.

“They were paper documents that were scanned, went to a city email address, and then ultimately forwarded to one of Chief Bush’s military email addresses,” Olson wrote. “These documents frequently requested signatures, which Chief Bush would apply manually in his off-duty employment position as either Colonel or Brigadier General with the Oregon Army National Guard.”

City Information Technology Manager James Wilson concluded that since the document originated in electronic form from the military email address to a city computer and then moments later, scanned in as paper documents with Bush’s manual signature applied, the purpose of the first forward was to send the document to the city computer for printing.

In response, Farra noted that, according to a July 2013 email from City HR Manager Mary Puddy, Forrester, and Dutli, Bush was required to share his orders with his immediate supervisor.

“Moreover, Chief Bush’s military evaluations are part of his official city personnel file, something readily available to Mr. Olson during his investigation,” Farra continued. “In fact, Chief Bush has been forwarding his military evaluations to his supervising city manager since 2002.”

Farra went on to note that Chief Bush “regularly presented Forrester with documents that he obviously printed at work,” and “had anyone ever expressed a concern to Chief Bush about his use of the system, he could have simply discontinued. But nobody ever did.”

The LGPI report also sustained allegations of misuse of the city gas card, based on two incidents in which he is said to have used the card then claimed mileage reimbursement with the military. Bush said both incidents were because of an error on the part of whoever filled out his military travel voucher, however Olson noted that the vouchers are still signed by Bush and the errors should have been caught.

“He has a reputation of being an attention-to-detail type of person in the police department and military,” he wrote. “His responses to my questions showed a person who was either negligent or intentionally deceptive with his answers to my questions.”

Regarding allegations of misuse of a city vehicle, Bush is said to have traveled with his police vehicle to attend military functions. Bush claimed the trips were under “dual status,” but Olson determined the military assignments were not related to city police work.

The report went on to sustain the allegation that Bush had failed to perform the duties of police chief. It recounted statements about his tendency to not effectively listen to staff due to his preoccupation with military work, his forgetfulness, and his management style, which employees said created a hostile work environment.

Boyd told Olson that as Bush has moved up in the military, he has less contact with the staff and lacks social skills. Boyd added that the community doesn’t like Bush because he doesn’t participate in community projects such as neighborhood cleanup events.

Dethman said that Bush micromanages staff, causing her concerns about his leadership style. She told Olson that Chief Bush treats employees like they are in the military instead of treating them as civilians.

While that is the case, Sgts. Jimmy O’Daniel and JoAnne Bauer gave Bush’s management style more favorable reviews. O’Daniel, who has served with Bush in the National Guard but not in the same chain of command, said he had no knowledge of him creating a hostile work environment. On the contrary, he said that Bush saved him from such a work environment when he returned from deployment in Iraq and resumed management of the police department from Boyd.

Olson was told that it got pretty bad when Boyd was interim chief and O’Daniel described the situation as a near mutiny with Boyd in charge.

Bauer likewise claimed to have no knowledge of Bush creating a hostile work environment. Of the staff interviewed, Bauer was the only one who socialized with Bush regularly outside of work, attending horse rides at his ranch with him and his wife.

“Sergeant Bauer said she had no concerns about Chief Bush being able to perform his duties as chief of police,” Olson stated.

In response to the allegation, Farra pointed out that a June 2013 job performance review of Bush conducted by Forrester rated him exceeding job expectations in 11 out of 12 categories, while the 12th category “flexibility” was rated “Meets Job Expectation.”

She said that Olson conceded that no allegation had been made regarding his communication, productivity, self-management, or problem-solving skills at the time he was put on administrative leave.

“Mr. Olson’s observations and justifications for his attacks on Chief Bush are generally vague and unsupported by substantial evidence, as is Mr. Olson’s attempt to explain away the chief’s actual performance reviews, which he blithely dismisses with an unsupported and bizarre reference to a mysterious “halo effect” that must have somehow clouded the judgment of Prineville’s city managers.”

In her Wednesday email, Farra concluded by stating that “Mr. Bush looks forward to presenting his response to a Crook County jury, who will have the chance to fairly consider all of the facts in this case before coming to a conclusion.”

City officials and staff have declined to comment on the report and current litigation.



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