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Citizens lose if details in Bush case undisclosed


A community hungry to learn the facts behind the 10-month leave and subsequent firing of former Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush was last week provided a taste.

And it took a lawsuit.

Bush has filed a $2.5 million suit against the city, citing various reasons and requests: namely that he was wrongfully terminated, slandered, and that wants his job back, plus a ton of money for the pain he has unjustly endured.

The filed lawsuit — with an obviously one-sided presentation — does give insight to the situation, something city officials have stonewalled from the outset. It appears two-pronged: the city contends Bush falsified flex time reported to the city and had lost the support and backing of many members of his staff through various acts of misconduct.

Bush contends the flex time was not falsified and that the lack of staff support stemmed from slanderous actions of the the man the city replaced him with, current Chief Michael Boyd. As for the various acts of misconduct, Bush's lawsuit claims they are "patently and provably false."

Bush essentially contends that the city discharged him because they didn't appreciate his absense due to his service with the National Guard. As for the city's contentions, they're still largely under wraps.

City residents are well aware of Bush's work with the National Guard and essentially understand the importance of it. Certainly no one can, or should be able to, be fired because of such commitments.

The more germaine question: What were the "various acts of misconduct?" What was Bush supposedly doing that would motivate to take the large step to terminate him?

According to Bush's lawsuit, the city's attorney, Carl Dutli, used the threat of going public with details in hopes of getting Bush to come to a settlement regarding dismissal. That threat, if it still exists, hasn't yet worked.

The Central Oregonian and other regional media outlets have filed a request, through public information laws, for the release of the Local Government Policy Institute's investigation. The city hired the LGPI to conduct the investigation and acted, it's assumed, upon its findings. The public records request is at the feet of District Attorney Daina Vitolins, who must determine if the public's interest in the information outweighs the public's interest in keeping it under wraps.

Our contention is that the public needs to know what motivated the city to put its longtime police chief — and brigadier general in the National Guard – on leave, ban him from the police department, then fire him.

Legally, refusing to say anything — the city's course throughout — may be the city’s smartest tact. It has been in litigation mode on this issue from day one, as many high profile personnel matters eventually are litigious. Dutli is giving the same advice most attorneys would: stay quiet.

We want city government to play it as smart as possible. But we feel, in this high profile case, the smart move is to tell the city residents why its police chief needed fired.

No one involved with the management of the city, the council and the police department will be able to move forward with the full confidence of the community until the community is presented a clear picture as to what was behind the leave of absense and subsequent dismissal.

Unless the public information access is granted, or unless the city suddenly changes its tact, full disclosure will apparently take a lawsuit. If a settlement is reached between the city and Bush that includes an agreement that information is not released, then the only loser will be the city's residents.