YOU CAN CALL ME “GONE”
Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Al Davis, 59, has been placed on administrative leave after being popped for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in Mammoth Lakes on Friday, January 6.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) report stated, “At approximately 11:57 a.m., CHP was requested to assist Mammoth Lakes Police Department with a traffic crash involving a city of Mammoth Lakes employee and vehicle.”
While attempting to park at the Minaret Mall outside Giovanni’s Restaurant, Mr. Davis collided into an unoccupied, parked vehicle, causing minor damage to both vehicles.
During the investigation, Mr. Davis “displayed signs and symptoms of impairment.”
“After further investigation, it was determined Mr. Davis was suspected of driving under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs at the time of the crash.”
He was placed under arrest at 2 p.m. and provided a blood sample before being released into the custody of an MLPD staff sergeant.
MLPD Sergent Dan Casabian was subsequently appointed Acting Police Chief by Town Manager Dan Holler.
The incident in front of Giovanni’s was Davis’s second car accident of the day.
The first accident, which was unreported, occurred at approximately 6 a.m.
A Mammoth local said Davis plowed into his old pickup truck, which was parked in front of his residence.
The local waved and began moving towards the car in an effort to flag down the driver.
When the driver rolled down his window, the local recognized Davis.
The conversation went something like this:
“You hit my truck.”
“No, I hit a snow bank.”
A cursory examination of fenders revealed that it had indeed been a truck, not a snow bank. A piece of Davis’s fender was recovered at the scene.
A friend of the local also filmed a short clip of the interaction.
Both men believed Davis to be intoxicated at the time.
Davis began his career in 1982. Prior to Mammoth, he served as a Commander with the Ventura Police Dept.
He has been Mammoth’s Police Chief since 2014, when he succeeded the retiring Dan Watson.
Mammoth’s Police Chief is an at-will position, meaning one can be removed at any time, with or without cause.
As the Chief’s contract states, “Employee shall serve at the will and pleasure of the Town Manager.”
In a without cause scenario, the Chief would be due ten weeks severance pay.
As the Town’s too chickens*it to hold anyone accountable – after all, public employees holding one of their own accountable would set horrible precedent – I wouldn’t count on the Town firing Davis with cause.
The job pays approximately $190,000/year with benefits.
One of those benefits includes use of a Town vehicle.
As the contract states, “Town shall provide employee with a vehicle for employee’s use on Town business and for occasional de minimis personal purposes, in lieu of providing any vehicle allowance. Town shall be responsible for the costs of operation, repair, maintenance, fuel, liability, property damage and comprehensive insurance.”
De minimis apparently includes early morning booze runs.
The Sheet asked Town Attorney Andrew Morris if Davis gets to keep his company car while he’s on leave.
Morris’s reply: I don’t believe so.
The Chief’s employment contract expires on June 30, 2023. He has stated in the recent past (within the past few months) that he has purchased a retirement home in Florida.
The Sheet spoke with Watson this week and asked if he would consider returning for a short period until Mammoth settled on a replacement.
Watson said “I would probably not consider it … I live in southern Arizona and am no longer certified in California.”
Acting Police Chief Casabian started in law enforcement in Riverside back in 2001, and then transferred to Mammoth P.D. in 2002. He was with MLPD from 2002-2013, then spent five years with the Mono County Sheriff’s Dept. before returning to MLPD to become a Sergeant in 2018.
Casabian said MLPD retains a strong management team and that his job right now is to “eliminate negative impacts” with the leadership transition.
“We’ll continue to offer our same professional service and [adhere to] our community policing philosophy,” which he described as involved, pro-active, and building personal relationships within the community.
One thing that came up in my conversation with Watson was an anecdote he told about taking a recent trip to Tennessee. He said MLPD Sgt. Ron Gladding invited him to stop by, as he has a home in Cookeville, Tenn.
Now that’s a long commute.
And obviously, policing is not a job which lends itself to remote work. So I asked Gladding about it this week. He was quite forthcoming, and it did speak to the modern work/life balance.
He said he owns a home in Tennessee and goes back there quite a bit, but says he spends the majority of his time in Mammoth. He’s an MHS graduate, and loves the department and the town. He is committed to the job for at least the next five years (when he would be eligible for retirement) regardless of who serves as Chief.
The Town experienced an outage of diesel fuel this past week – at least for private businesses and individuals, a result of the sustained closure of Highway 395 due to the storms.
Mamnmoth Chevron’s Karl Teller has the largest tank so he held out the longest, but was still dry for approximately thirty hours.
This hindered private snow removal operations.
The Town of Mammoth, per Public Works Director Haislip Hayes at Tuesday’s Planning and Economic Development Commission meeting, sent two plows south in order to lead its diesel supplier up the grade.
The Sheet asked Teller if the Town had reached out to offer to lead a larger convoy which would include rigs serving private suppliers. Answer: No.
To paraphrase Teller: We supply the tax revenue so the public sector can look out for itself.