Bishop cops go public with letter of no confidence while Chief is on vacation.
A group of public employees unhappy with their supervisor but afraid of retaliation say nothing … until the supervisor’s gone. No, we’re not talking about Northern Inyo Hospital, but the Bishop Police Department (BPD). Key difference: the supervisor hasn’t left, yet. But he was on vacation when his subordinates dropped the bomb.
Seven members of the BPD signed and released a “Letter of No Confidence in soon-to-retire Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter.” The cops make some serious allegations against Carter, City Administrator Jim Tatum, former BPD Chief and sitting Bishop City Councilman Joe Pecsi and City Attorney, Ryan Jones, but Jones is never mentioned by name.
The cops accuse Carter of alleged dereliction of duties, negligence, encouraging time card fraud, “or even embezzlement of City resources.”
The letter, dated Sept. 17, describes Carter as being a bully, unappreciative of his subordinates and describes rampant cronyism at the BPD. “By fostering an atmosphere of hostility, retaliation and unethical behavior Chief Carter has brought morale to an all-time low. Retention and recruitment of qualified personnel is suffering. That in turn jeopardizes the safety of the community. Chief Carter’s unfair and inequitable treatment of Department personnel and his use of internal affairs investigations to intimidate Officers can no longer be tolerated.” The letter is signed by officers Brent Gillespie, Mark Gutierrez and Bryan Rossy, Sergeants Doug Mairs and David Jepson, acting-Sergeant Mike Mairs and Detective Jared Waasdorp.
Carter responded against the advice of legal counsel and while he was on vacation. Carter added that the cops claims of fear of retaliation, “is nothing but an excuse.”
Carter’s response was submitted as a “Press Release” from the BPD. “It is my understanding there will be an official investigation, as there well should be, and I welcome it because I know what the truths of these allegations are,” Carter states. “I assure you that while some of what has been said is true, the whole truth is not contained anywhere in their letter. I have been advised that because some of these allegations might amount to misconduct or even criminal conduct, I’m not obliged to make any statement and should not proceed without legal counsel. While I recognize the validity of this advice, I cannot and will not remain silent on this issue.”
Carter said the cop’s letter is a smear campaign with nothing to gain as he’s already announced his retirement set for the end of September. Carter returned to Bishop Wednesday but could not be reached for comment.
The story on the streets has it that one BPD officer was disciplined for beating up a subject and delayed promotion, or was illegally denied a promotion and was eventually reinstated, while another officer who allegedly took a lewd picture of himself while in full uniform on a company phone and sent it to a female BPD dispatcher, was disciplined but was the police chief’s favorite and given preferential treatment. The name of the officer/selfie photographer is never specified in the letter or reply, but Officer Dan Nolan is referred to in both statements as the officer who was shown favoritism after an incident.
The nepotism has created a fault line between the chief and other officers. Carter admits to helping create the fray in the department, but it was out of loyalty. “I’m likely responsible for some of that damage because I refused to let Dan’s mistake be the last word in an otherwise stellar career and I also refused to turn my back on him as a friend, as some of these officers suggested was an appropriate response. I offer no apologies for being or having a loyal friend.”
Carter is also a business partner with Nolan and did not recuse himself from the investigation. Once the discipline was imposed, Carter issued a written directive threatening termination to any department personnel who spoke of the matter, according to the cops. Carter never addresses this allegation in his response. There are no specifics in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and Bishop Police Officers Association, ratified just last month, pertaining to internal affairs investigations or if the chief can be allowed into personnel investigations.
In addressing the charge of nepotism and cronyism at the department, Carter clearly admits to playing sides. “My favorites are those people who consistently give 111% and who solve problems and don’t whine about having to do their job,” Carter stated. “If you want a regular schedule with predictable hours and demands, Kmart is hiring. If you don’t like this job, there really are five doors in the building, pick one and I’ll help you pack. I respect professional attitudes and conduct.”
The cops also allege that Carter has shown favoritism toward Nolan who is also employed, along with Carter in Pecsi’s concealed weapon course company, STTARR.net. (Sierra Tactical Training and Active Response Resources LLC). There is no law against an elected official or municipal employee having another job as long as it is not a conflict of interest or in such case, the elected official can recuse himself from possible conflict of interest.
The Chief of Police serves at the pleasure of the City Council and it can discipline the Chief. It could fire him, or possibly amend his contract or severance package but with such little time left before the Chief’s retirement, nothing could come of this, according to sources at the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office. There does not seem to be any illegal activity as described by the cops, except for the allegations that Nolan has been possibly double-dipping; teaching Police Officer Training at Cerro Coso Community College while on the clock as a cop, said the source from the DA. The source said that there would be nothing illegal about Nolan using vacation time to teach the classes, as the cops state.
However, teaching the classes in full uniform and driving a cruiser gives perception that he’s on duty, even though he’s purportedly on vacation, the source said. Nolan could not be reached for comment.
Inyo DA Tom Hardy, said he had no comment and could not comment on any investigations into the matter if there was one or not, but the incident is still fresh.
The cops state they have gone to the City Administrative Officer Jim Tatum with grievances in the past, as is procedural according to the MOU. The procedure states an employee first makes a grievance to the immediate supervisor, then the department head, the CAO then to the Council that has the final decision if the matter cannot be resolved through the previous steps.
The cops don’t state what grievance procedures they followed for their beef against Carter. But they do state that Tatum was allegedly not cooperative in handling previous complaints. “He (Tatum) has failed to act. More recently, the City Administrator chose to ignore lies and false statements made by a Department employee (and supporter of Chief Carter) against an Officer in an internal affairs investigation. The City Administrator admitted several times he knew the statements were false,” the cops state.
The cops continue by stating a formal complaint was made to the City Council, and the City Attorney reviewed the matter and found no basis for further action without bothering to interview the officer who made the complaint.
Whatever the cops reason, releasing a list of complaints to the press as a first step is not procedural.
The source at the DA’s office said that the kind of grievances the cops are claiming are not your typical, black and white case such as an employer terminating an employee for missing work but the employee had a doctor’s note. The complaints, at least as spelled out in the letter, point to some specifics, but it is mostly opinion and conjecture.
City Administrator Jim Tatum, City Attorney Ryan Jones, the Bishop Police Department and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department had no comment. Nolan is also an assistant coach for the Bishop High School football team and it is uncertain if he will retain that job. The school did not return calls to The Sheet.
The rumor of an officer getting into an altercation, disciplined and eventually reinstated could not be confirmed but according to an article in, PORAC (Peace Officers Research Association of California) Law Enforcement News, the City of Bishop and Carter improperly demoted Sergeant Dave Jepson, who was eventually reinstated. According to the article, Jepson was at the end of his probationary period for a promotion to Sergeant on Feb. 16, 2011 and Carter placed a signed Personnel Action Form in Jepson’s mailbox confirming the promotion. But then the chief “changed his mind,” according to PORAC, on March 8, 2011 and gave Jepson a Notice of Probationary Performance Failure.
The notice was not a disciplinary action so Jepson could not appeal but decided to anyway then was told by the City that the appeal was too late. Inyo County Superior Court ruled that the rejection notice was too late and Jepson was a sergeant at the time of the notice and reinstated as a Sergeant with back pay. The Court also rruled telling Jepson the appeal was too late violated his due process.
Jepson was one of the officers that signed the letter.