This is the front page of today's South Pasadena Review. It leads with a story about South Pasadena police chief Dan Watson's decision to retire. Does this announcement surprise anyone after the shameful treatment he received from the South Pasadena City Council? (You can read my first post about this issue here.) The story goes on to cover the many, many South Pasadena notables who have spoken out in favor of the chief -- at council meetings and elsewhere. The paper includes a full page ad listing dozens and dozens of names of South Pas residents who support the chief and want him to stay. There's a second smaller ad and a page full of letters to the editor -- all echoing the same sentiment: We Want Dan Watson as Our Police Chief.
Is the council listening? Doubtful. At last week's meeting, the chorus of adamant citizens who spoke -- including former mayors, activists, esteemed members of the community and even yours truly -- didn't sway the council. A reliable source told the South Pasadena Review that "four members in closed session sided with the decision to recruit a new chief, while Mayor Richard Schneider was the only one pushing to keep Watson on board."
South Pas resident Ron Rosen wrote in his letter to the editor, "Do we want a City Council that acts in the best interests of the city? Or a council that acts based on the personal agendas of its individual members?"
I think former mayor Odom Stamps summed it up well when he wrote an open message to the council in my blog comments a few days ago. The message was also printed in today's South Pasadena Review:
For the past eight years the City of South Pasadena has experienced an unusually high percentage of turnover of almost every department head, often multiple times, including the City Manager. Consequently there is a dearth of institutional memory and the results are a loss of public employee morale, a lessening of the quality of services to the community, as well as numerous real and some costly problems due to lack of follow through on a range of issues, and confused (and broken) policy decisions.
For eight years one shining example to the contrary has been the excellent service and leadership of Police Chief Dan Watson. He stepped in to head up an organization that had endured several scandals and has overseen a complete reversal of that perception and reality - It is now a police force esteemed by our community. And the community let’s you elected officials know this at every appropriate opportunity, whether it has been the decision to keep the police as a part of our government rather than to contract the service out to the county sheriff, or the standing ovation Dan Watson received when city officials that attended were announced at the TOR Crunch Party last week.
Beyond establishing an exemplary work record, Dan and Kathy Watson also have given largely of their time and money in active community service work, including Rotary Club (past President), SPTOR, ACS Relay For Life, to name three. They are both fixtures at our community events. This man deserves the South Pasadena Review’s “Citizen of the Year Award”, for many jobs well done - not the humbling requirement of having to reapply for his job, as one among many.
Most of us can’t take the time to come and speak out at City Council meetings, and when we do, it’s usually to complain about something believed to be going wrong – not to attest to what’s going right. It was therefore an inspiration to those in the community who do follow government actions when our City Clerk, Sally Kilby and our City Treasurer, Vic Robinette got up to support Chief Watson. The following meeting eight more community activists, including former Mayor Harry Knapp and myself took the opportunity to do so. I expect that this will lead to a ground swell of support at the next meeting, until such time as this issue is resolved, and the Chief is accorded the respectful treatment that he is due.
This has been made necessary because of the public airing of the issues involving the Chief’s employment in the past two issues of our Newspaper of Record. After the shameful treatment that very recently played out in the pages of that same newspaper, leading to the dismissal of our City Manager – people who know and respect Chief Watson are understandably upset.
We expect that the City Manager would deal fairly and privately with his employees on any personnel matter, and he has a duty to investigate any allegation or complaint as well as the record of achievement in making up his mind. To my knowledge, City Manager John Davidson is doing just that. But because this process has been brought to public attention, and that the review of the Chief’s record extends past the expiration of his employment agreement, and that others are encouraged to apply, makes what should have been a private employment negotiation, an embarrassment.
Therefore I urge the City Manager to conclude his review with all deliberate speed, and if everything is found to the good, to quickly conclude negotiations with the Chief. Separately I urge the Council to get ahead of the rumor and innuendo mill with a resolution of support for Chief Watson and the great job you know him to be doing. Such a resolution would go a long way to reassure the town that our local government is professionally run, that it’s leadership respects long serving, capable managers, and also to buoy the morale of the City’s employees with the knowledge that a job well done is a secure job.
I think the council should instruct the city manager to beg Chief Watson to rescind his retirement and stay on.
Concerned citizens are printing another ad in next week's paper. If you would like to include your name as a supporter of Chief Dan Watson and/or contribute to ad costs please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Update at 9:00AM: Take a look at what Larry Wilson has to say in The Pasadena Star News.
Update at 3:00PM: Here's an article on the subject by Alfred Lee, also in The Pasadena Star News today. Interesting note: Council members David Sifuentes, Mike Ten, Michael Cacciotti and Mayor Richard Schneider did not return Lee's calls for comment Tuesday. Councilman Philip Putnam could not be reached.
Update on January 17, 2010: Read Pasadena Star News' writer Larry Wilson's newest column touching on a legal aspect of the council's actions.