Fallout from staff probes, dismissals runs city deeper into the red

by: FILE PHOTO - Interim City Manager Don Otterman said the City Council will discuss at a Feb. 13 meeting how additional expenditures have affected the city's budget. By the time Scappoose hires a private company to find a permanent city manager, the city will have spent more than $190,000 on unexpected city personnel issues since it launched investigations into its police chief, according to information obtained through Spotlight records requests.

The unexpected costs come at a time when the city is already tightening its belt.

Last October, City Council voted to incrementally raise residential water rates by $15 per meter, per month over the course of three years. That decision was made partially due to the city’s failure to receive bids to clear-cut a timber tract in the Gourlay Creek Watershed.

Since the money that harvest would have generated never went into the city’s revenue stream, Scappoose entered the fiscal year with a $440,000 budget deficit.

At a February City Council meeting, councilors will discuss the impact the unexpected costs have had on the city’s budget.

“On the council meeting on Feb. 18, we’ll have two agenda items,” said interim City Manager Don Otterman. “One will be the audit, the other is adjustments to the budget to reflect those additional expenditures. We’ll have a much clearer indication of how it’s impacting the current budget and how it might affect next year’s.”

Scappoose Police Chief Douglas GreisenSince the beginning of his suspension in September, Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen has received $32,104 from the city of Scappoose as of Jan. 22.

The chief earns a salaried annual compensation of $102,681, according to city budget documents available online.

The investigation that found Greisen had violated 10 of the city’s policies in a February 2013 police pursuit, as well as two other investigations into his alleged running of a retaliatory workplace and inappropriate spending of city money, have run Scappoose nearly $26,548 as of Jan. 22.

Upon receiving a report from a private investigations firm, called Local Government Personnel Institute, or LGPI, into Greisen’s missteps, former City Manager Jon Hanken issued a two-week suspension without pay to the chief. Greisen appealed that decision, resulting in the formation of a randomly-selected committee of councilors to determine whether Hanken’s disciplinary action was in compliance with existing policies and law. The committee, called the Personnel Review Committee, released a recommendation in October 2013, calling for Hanken to retract the discipline issued to the chief on the grounds that the report into the matter was biased and erroneous.

About one month later, the Scappoose City Council negotiated a termination of Hanken’s contract with the city. The City Council opted to pay Hanken a one year’s severance totaling $110,000, plus health and retirement benefits, the Spotlight reported in November. As of press time, the city has denied requests for specific information about the total dollar value of Hanken’s severance package.

While councilors have yet to provide a reason for their termination of Hanken’s contract, they have insisted it had nothing to do with his disciplining of Greisen.

Hanken told the Spotlight in a November interview, however, it was clear to him the council would seek his termination as soon the PRC found the investigative report’s findings “null and void.”

Interim Scappoose City Manager Don OttermanLast week, after extensive review, Otterman upheld Hanken’s prior disciplinary action to issue Greisen a two-week suspension without pay, going against the PRC’s recommendation.

Former City Council President Jeff Bernhard read a statement to the City Council, Jan. 6 in which he indicated Hanken’s severance agreement amounted to more than $145,000 being paid by the city.

“I am truly at a loss that this council spent over $145,000 and gave no factual reason or provided any factual evidence to the taxpayers,” Bernhard read.

At additional cost to the city is Otterman, who temporarily fills the position of city manager. Scappoose hired Otterman to start Jan. 1 at $5,548.80 per month for the position. Otterman, as well as a city manager recruitment subcommittee, is in the process of hiring a private company to find a candidate to serve as a permanent city manager for Scappoose, an endeavor Otterman estimates will cost the city between $15,000 and $20,000.

On Jan. 2, the Scappoose City Council terminated its contract with the city’s legal counsel, Jordan Ramis PC, providing no reason. City Council reversed the decision Jan. 6, opting to continue to use Jordan Ramis for municipal legal counsel, but hire a second attorney to handle employment issues.

Otterman said that since the duties of the legal firms will be split, the cost to pay them will likely be split as well, resulting in no additional cost to the city.

The city put out a request for proposal to hire an employment attorney this week with a response deadline of Feb. 14.

LGPI Executive Director Diana Moffat told the Spotlight last week the institute had completed and submitted its report into allegations Greisen misspent city funds. A Spotlight request to review the report has been denied by the city. The Spotlight is in the process of appealing that denial.

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