February 28, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 8

Police employees raise issues about chief

Haines Borough manager Mark Earnest is reviewing complaints from personnel within the police department about chief Gary Lowe, mayor Stephanie Scott confirmed this week.

Scott said Tuesday Earnest is investigating complaints made by employees in the police department, but would not discuss the nature of the complaints.

“I am aware that there are personnel complaints within the department regarding the chief. And I am aware that the manager is tending to them,” Scott said.

Earnest would not answer questions concerning the investigation this week. “I’m not going to comment on the whole thing at this time,” he said.

In an email Lowe sent Feb. 22 to Earnest, four officers, and five dispatch employees, the chief wrote that he had met with the manager to discuss “several concerns” Earnest had heard from members of the police department and dispatch.

According to the email, Earnest said people in general are afraid to talk to Lowe. Several reasons for this were identified, including “people feared retaliation,” “people said I could be uncaring and sarcastic,” “people said that I make fun of them or belittle them,” and “when people bring me ideas I do not value their opinions.”

Earnest said “he felt the sentiments expressed to him were the general consensus of both departments,” according to the email.

In the email, Lowe encouraged all employees to feel free to talk with him at any time. He offered to meet in either group or one-on-one sessions to gather constructive criticism.

“I realize that there are times that we can get on each other’s nerves, but when I am the culprit, no one feels like they can hold me accountable. I want to hold myself accountable, but I need your help with providing me areas that I need to focus on,” Lowe wrote.

Scott said she has “no authority whatsoever” to act in a personnel matter; that responsibility falls on Earnest.

“He is working through the standard procedures for this kind of situation, which I assume means talking to everybody involved, including the police chief,” Scott said.

Assembly member Debra Schnabel said she met with Earnest and Scott this week to discuss the complaints against Lowe. Earnest said he was conducting an investigation and would have a report on the matter to present at the assembly’s next meeting, Schnabel said.

The assembly can terminate Lowe’s contract with or without cause. The contract expires in 2014.