Bend Police Chief Jeff Sale was fired on Wednesday by City Manager Eric King, who said he fired Sale to change the culture within the department and increase communication between command and patrol employees.
Sale’s firing comes at least partly as a result of former Lt. Chris Carney’s resignation on Jan. 12 after an investigation revealed Carney had sexual relations with three city employees and one member of the media. The member of the media has disputed Carney’s allegations through an attorney.
Sale could not be reached for comment.
King said Sale’s “contract was terminated for no cause.” “Following the terms of his contract, he will receive approximately four months’ severance pay.”
Sale earned a $10,445.34-per-month salary as chief. His severance pay package totals $41,781.36, according to Bend Human Relations Director Rob DuValle.
King said the sex scandal gave him “deep concern” and prompted an internal review in which he looked at “the culture and environment at the department.”
“I contacted about 20 individuals all across rank, folks at the command and patrol level as well as community partners,” King said. “I was able to get a good handle on how communication works and asked about the ability within the department to deal with issues in a productive way.”
King concluded after an approximately weeklong investigation that he “felt a change in leadership was necessary.”
Sale took over as police chief in 2011 following the retirement of Sandi Baxter, who was a 30-year veteran. Prior to taking over as Bend’s chief of police, Sale served as police chief in Cheney, Wash.
Capt. Jim Porter will take over as interim chief, King said. King expects Porter will be in the position for at least six months, possibly longer.
“We will eventually go through a formal recruitment and selection process,” King said. “Right now Jim will focus on rebuilding relationships within the department.”
Porter, 55, has served with the department for 22 years. During that time he’s held several posts, including detective, SWAT team member and patrol sergeant. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2003 and to captain in 2006.
Porter said his first two equally important tasks as chief will be to rebuild citizen trust and address the needs of department employees.
“I need to assure the public that they have an outstanding police department that has continued to provide excellent service through all of this,” he said. “Within the department, I need to listen to what employees want and need to improve morale.”
Porter said he has met with a cross-section of department staff members to ask them what they believe should be addressed first.
“We have already set benchmarks that employees see as important issues,” he said. “We are going to prioritize certain projects to bring closure and get those projects up and running.” Porter said Sale’s time with the department had successes.
“He brought us to the recognition that we need to be moving forward always,” Porter said. “He brought an understanding of technology and how that can help the department.”
During his tenure in Bend, Sale underwent two performance evaluations with King. The most recent — conducted in early 2013 and covering calendar year 2012 — indicated Sale’s performance “exceeds job standards” or is “outstanding,” according to the report, provided to The Bulletin by the city of Bend.
“Jeff has developed a plan to improve morale and increase communication with staff, ensuring that proposed changes in operations are well connected to the department strategic plan and ensuring that he is more visible and approachable with staff,” King wrote.
In the 2012 evaluation, King rated Sale’s job performance as “meets job standards” in two categories: His ability to provide “clear expectations … for subordinates” and “hold them accountable,” and his ability to create “a workplace environment that encourages good morale, reduces turnover, and engages employees to participate in decision-making.”
Sale, in his 2012 self-evaluation, declared that his “ability to communicate internally and externally has enabled the department to exceed expectations,” he wrote. “I have respect within the department and within other departments in the city.”
Sale did note that he struggled to come to agreements and compromises with Deschutes County Sheriff Larry Blanton.
“Dealing with the Deschutes County sheriff has been a challenge at times throughout the year,” Sale wrote. “They are an ‘old school’ agency and would publicly speak against the changes being brought to the department. I dealt with this by talking openly with the sheriff and not backing down to his thought process.”
“This is a decision I needed to make,” King said. “The department needs to refocus on change and emphasize and rebuild relationships.”
The six-week investigation into Carney’s misdeeds, conducted by Bend Police Lt. Ben Gregory and verified by Porter, caused Porter to conclude that, “based on the severity of the policy and values violations … I recommend that Lt. Chris Carney’s employment with the Bend Police Department be terminated.”
Carney resigned before he could be fired. The three city employees and the member of the media were not identified. The attorney for the member of the media has said that she is not an employee of The Bulletin.
Bend Mayor Pro Tem Jodie Barram said she supports King’s decision on Sale and hopes the Police Department can move forward.
“It’s important the public know that the actions of a few individuals don’t reflect the integrity with which the majority of men and women of the Police Department serve this community,” she said in an email. “In Eric’s recent review he received high marks for his work. I appreciate the sensitivity and professionalism he has shown handling this personnel matter.”
Porter said he hasn’t had time to focus on his own goals for the department as interim chief, but said he’s instead going to spend the first several months working with employees to improve morale.
“We’ve experienced quite a storm within the department in the last 90 days, between the shooting involving Erick Supplee and the internal investigations,” Porter said. “Employee morale is built on trust and a feeling of inclusion, and communication is key to all that. I want to make sure the employees help make decisions on how we move forward, because the more buy-in they have the better their performance will be.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0376, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, the amount of Sale’s severance pay package was incorrect.
The Bulletin regrets the error.