The Haines Borough Assembly will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4 to evaluate the ability of police chief Gary Lowe to perform his duties and supervise the police department. The “informal administrative hearing” will not be open to the public.
The meeting will be conducted as a quasi-judicial proceeding, clerk Julie Cozzi wrote in a notice Tuesday.
Borough attorney Brooks Chandler, who will function as the meeting’s hearing officer, issued a draft hearing procedure earlier this week stating the meeting would be public and Lowe would be present while the assembly interviewed members of the police department.
Chandler issued a revised hearing procedure Tuesday evening after receiving comments and concerns from borough officials and department employees about the public nature of the meeting and Lowe’s presence, Mayor Stephanie Scott said.
“I have had visits from department personnel who expressed concern about feeling constrained by the public nature of the conversation. And I, myself, feel that way,” Scott said.
Under the new procedure, “people will be able to testify one by one in private without the presence of anybody other than the hearing officer, Mark Earnest” and the assembly members, Scott said.
Lowe’s appearance at the hearing is still mandatory, but “he will not witness the testimony,” Scott said.
Sgt. Simon Ford, who is acting chief while Lowe is on administrative leave, said Lowe’s presence and the public nature of the initial procedure made department employees wary of attending. The new procedure has changed some minds, he said.
“I can’t speak for anybody else, but it seems like there was a renewed interest in participating in this thing knowing there was a chance to do this privately,” Ford said.
According to the revised hearing procedure, a packet will be distributed to assembly members at the beginning of the hearing. It will contain a copy of Lowe’s contract, a section of borough code regarding the duties of the police chief, Earnest’s March 26 letter to Lowe (which put Lowe on administrative leave and told the chief he had lost the capacity to lead the department), Earnest’s March 12 report to the assembly on his investigation into the complaint, Earnest’s notes from interviews taken during his investigation and a copy of the original complaint.
Earnest also is required to submit a summary of “factual basis for his conclusion” that Lowe is not able to effectively lead the department. The summary does not need to be an elaborate statement, but should refer to particular examples from the interviews without disclosing the identities of sources, the document said.
Following the hearing, the assembly will issue “a formal decisional document” to be made public. This will likely occur one to two weeks after the hearing’s conclusion, according to the document.
Earnest issued a press release this week stating, “It is inappropriate for me to discuss this personnel matter further in advance of the hearing. I will not have any comment on the matter in advance of the hearing.
Mayor Scott said Lowe had expressed a desire to keep all hearings public.