The Haines Borough Assembly directed the manager during a March 12 special meeting to “apply corrective action” to address the assembly’s concerns about police chief Gary Lowe’s behavior during a March 5 assembly meeting.
“Appropriate public comments in dealing with personnel matters” and “appreciation for a respectful relationship between law enforcement and the media” were the two specific concerns.
The motion passed 4-2, with assembly members Debra Schnabel, Joanne Waterman, Jerry Lapp and Steve Vick in favor. Members Dave Berry and Norm Smith opposed. Berry and Smith did not attend the March 5 meeting.
Lowe at the March 5 meeting spoke publicly and in detail about a personnel issue at the police department that has resulted in a formal complaint against him. He also said CVN editor Tom Morphet personally threatened him, and that because of a dispute over access to police logs, Morphet was going to smear him in the newspaper.
Waterman said she felt Lowe’s response on March 5 was inappropriate and that she has higher expectations of his role as chief of police. “I was taken aback by the words that he used.... There was an emotional side to it that I felt didn’t meet the professional standard of the job. Not only as chief of police, but as an officer of the borough,” she said.
A police chief should be able to remain strong, calm and authoritative in a stressful or tense situation and emerge with a clear head and rational assessment of what happened, Waterman said.
Schnabel said her main concern was Lowe’s belief that the newspaper, by reporting on developments in the police department, was deliberately trying to disgrace or discredit Lowe in some way.
“If that is in fact his position right now, I think that needs to be addressed, because I don’t think that we can go forward with working in the community if we have the attitude that any information about the police department is vindictive,” she said.
About 45 people packed the assembly chambers for the meeting. More than a dozen people voiced their support for Lowe and spoke about their positive experiences with him, but several also said they were not aware of what happened at the March 5 meeting and lacked information about complaints against Lowe.
Mayor Stephanie Scott early last week said she anticipated a vote on terminating Lowe. Comments from Lowe’s supporters at the meeting included that the chief was being “railroaded” and that if there are issues with Lowe, he should have the opportunity to address them.
The special meeting was called by Waterman, Lapp and Schnabel. The assembly meets March 26, to consider manager Mark Earnest’s performance evaluation of Lowe alongside an “improvement plan” for the department compiled by Lowe.