Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Commission: New manager should choose police chief


The Haines Borough Public Safety Commission doesn’t want Mark Earnest making the final decision on who gets the police chief job.

The commission voted unanimously Monday to recommend the assembly postpone hiring a new police chief until Earnest’s replacement arrives. It also recommended keeping Simon Ford as interim chief in the meantime.

Commission chair Jim Stanford said the decision needs to be put on hold. “(Earnest) is a lame duck manager and shouldn’t be making decisions that may or may not be in the best interest of the borough in the long term.”

Stanford said of the 16 applications for chief, the commission received only three to review, including Ford’s. “We just found his whole methodology of doing this – especially in the wake of his leaving – was flawed. We don’t want an exiting manager to hire a police chief for an incoming manager. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Of the 16 people who turned in their applications by the deadline, Earnest shortlisted four. When Earnest later found out shortlisted applicant Steven Annetts was pressured to resign from his previous job as police chief in Douglas, Wyo ., under troublesome circumstances, he threw out the application.

“Those are the candidates that rose to the top on paper,” Earnest said of the short list. “That’s the process.”

Preliminary Internet searches are usually a part of the candidate screening process, but weren’t completed this time, he said.

“Normally we do that. We do a quick Google search because those can be very helpful... Normally we would have done that and I do that as a manner of course, but I was trying to get stuff done and out the door and finished,” Earnest said.

Commissioner Bob Duis took issue with Earnest’s shortlisting method, which included reading resumes and cover letters. “We’d like to see all the applications. I don’t know if the application process was as good as it could have been... I would like to see the new manager consider what was done and see if he or she wants to do it any differently,” Duis said.

Earnest said all four shortlisted candidates signed a release to have a background check performed, which cost the borough $500 apiece. He hired the Soldotna-based company Russell Consulting LLC to conduct background checks on the four candidates.

Greg Russell, the company’s CEO and president, said a background check usually includes an interview with the applicant, personal and professional reference checks, credit report checks, and a search of criminal and civil court records.

Aside from Ford, the two remaining shortlisted candidates whose applications were given to the commission were Scott Happ and Chris Canaski.

Canaski has worked for Affirmative Insurance Holdings in Baton Rouge, La ., since 2011, conducting insurance fraud investigations. Before that, he worked for Progressive Casualty Insurance in Metairie, La ., for less than a year, also performing insurance fraud investigations.

  Canaski also worked for two years as chief of police in Cordova, from April 2008 to May 2010. From 2007 to 2008, he worked as a deputy sheriff in Harvey, La.

Scott Happ has worked for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado since 2001, working his way up to deputy sheriff. Before that, he worked as a deputy sheriff in Brighton, Colo ., for four months. Happ also worked as a police officer in Wheat Ridge, Colo ., for less than a year.

Stanford and Duis said they had issues with both Happ and Canaski.

The public safety commission is Stanford, Duis and Cassie Miller. There are two open seats on the commission.