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Civil Service Protection for Bonney Lake Police Chief: Makes Sense or No Way?

Interim Police Chief Dana Powers wants job security afforded by civil service status prior to her appointment as permanent chief.

If you were fired from your job, you'd want a legitimate reason for being let go, wouldn't you?

That's the underlying reasoning behind what some residents perceive is holding up action by the city of Bonney Lake in appointing Interim Police Chief Dana Powers to the permanent chief position.

Powers was appointed interim chief last August. According to City Council agenda documents (AB12-133), Mayor Neil Johnson intends to appoint her as regular chief. But before that happens, Powers herself requested 'bumping rights' (or reassignment back to assistant chief) should the mayor opt to install a new chief in the future.

Currently, Powers is in the civil service, which according to City Administrator Don Morrison, affords employees job protection in the sense that should they ever be fired or be subjected to any kind of disciplinary action, there needs to be 'just cause' and a procedure followed with the Civil Service Commission.

The position of police chief, however, is a civil service-exempt position, meaning that should city leadership ever deem to install a chief, the old chief could be removed 'at will,' said Morrison.

City leaders are considering an acceptable alternative, which is to 'grandfather' her civil service status in ahead of her appointment as chief.

This is not an unheard of action in surrounding cities, according to Morrison. The cities of Sumner and Puyallup have “grandfathered” their latest chiefs into their civil service system. In Bonney Lake itself, it was done in 2000 for Bryan Jeter as well, as according to The Courier-Herald, the city's policy at that time was already to exempt the chief position.

According to The Courier-Herald, the Council was split 3-3 when it last discussed the matter at its Oct. 2 workshop.

Some councilmembers work in the private sector where such protections aren't afforded, said Morrison, so that was why a vote on the issue was tabled during the Oct. 9 meeting for further consideration.

The Council is expected to vote on this ordinance, however, at its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23. It applies only when the mayor proposes to hire someone from within that's already in the civil service, said Morrison.

What do you think? Is the police chief position unique to those of other department heads that are considered 'at will' employees? Tell us in the comments.

David Coutts October 18, 2012 at 04:27 PM
It only makes sense to negotiate some protections to her future. Planning ahead is a good move, especially when working in a civil service position. She does a great job for our city and is the obvious choice the the permanent position. But predicting the future within any government agency is nearly impossible so making sure that one's future is more stable is just responsible planning.
Jim Davey October 18, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I completely agree with the comment that she needs to protect her future who wouldn't? I hope it all works out well for her
Fred Jacobsen October 19, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Yes, the position shouldn't be up to the whim of whoever is elected Mayor.
David Colbeth October 19, 2012 at 05:02 PM
While the private sector may not generally have special protections, in a more senior role (Directors, Vice Presidents, CEO, etc) there is almost always some kind of negotiated severance arrangement.
Talis Abolins October 19, 2012 at 11:54 PM
It makes good sense for the City to negotiate a reasonable arrangement for the most qualified applicant. Otherwise the community loses out.

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