The Haines Borough Personnel Committee will meet 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss how to deal with police department staff organization in the wake of former Police Chief Gary Lowe’s recent resignation from his position.
Manager Mark Earnest said the committee will likely discuss several points, including whether and how to move forward with a job announcement for the position. Earnest said discussions have also arisen about whether the department could stand to downsize from five to four officers.
“I can tell you, based on experience, that with turnover, with vacation, with training, that does result in a considerable amount of overtime. So I’m not sure if that’s a huge cost saver,” Earnest said about shrinking the department.
Earnest said he has also prepared a draft ordinance for the personnel committee’s consideration, which would make the police chief an employee of the manager, not the assembly. The draft ordinance was the idea of assembly members at a March 20 personnel committee meeting, when committee members discussed the possible restructuring of the position, Earnest said.
At Tuesday’s assembly meeting, assembly member Norm Smith raised the issue of whether or not the department needs a police chief at all.
“Are we mandated by charter or borough code to have a chief of police?... We put this person up on this pedestal, and it’s almost like a demigod. I just don’t think it’s necessary,” Smith said.
During assembly comments Tuesday, member Debra Schnabel said she would like to see the assembly take a reflective look at how it dealt with the two-month Lowe ordeal, which stemmed from complaints from within the department about Lowe’s behavior.
“I very much would like to see the assembly engage in a debriefing of our processes and our decision-making that ultimately ended up in the separation of the chief of police from the borough... I wanted to check with the members of the assembly to determine whether or not you think that we could gain insight into some of our processes, and how we evaluate and analyze our business, and how we come to conclusions and make decisions. I think there’s a lot of stuff that we could learn about how we function by reexamining some of the things that occurred,” Schnabel said.
The five other assembly members did not respond. “Assembly comments” is an agenda item that comes at the end of assembly meetings.