State investigation of Bush says no evidence of crime

DOJ probe of former Prineville chief complete

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin

An Oregon Department of Justice investigation of former Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush has concluded there is insufficient evidence to prove Bush committed any crime.

Bush was fired at the conclusion of a 10-month investigation commissioned by the city and conducted by the Local Government Personnel Institute, which found he had padded his hours to collect flex time, used city computers and equipment for noncity business, and misused his city vehicle and credit card. The DOJ investigation, initiated at the request of Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins shortly after the start of the city’s investigation, looked into the same questions but concluded there was no basis for charging Bush with theft or official misconduct.

Bush is not facing criminal charges.

Former Deschutes County Sheriff Les Stiles was picked as the interim chief of the Prineville Police Department, and Bush has filed a $2.5 million suit against the city alleging he was fired because of his service with the Oregon Army National Guard.

An Aug. 18 letter from state senior Assistant Attorney General Kristen Hoffmeyer to Vitolins outlined the DOJ’s findings.

On the issue of flex time, DOJ investigators were unable to determine with certainty how much flex time Bush was accruing and how much he was using. In the letter, Hoffmeyer notes that Bush’s claimed flex hours did not match what the city believed he earned on 39 days over three years, and in some of those instances, he appeared to under-report his flex hours.

Investigators were similarly unable to establish that Bush had misused office computers and equipment. The former chief acknowledged occasionally using his city email account and city printers and scanners to process documents related to his role with the National Guard, but he said he thought his use of the equipment was not excessive.

Bush did not attempt to conceal his use of city equipment for military business, the letter states. The city’s employee handbook is vague as to what constitutes “personal use” of city email and silent on the use of scanners and copiers.

Investigators found four instances when Bush used his vehicle to conduct National Guard business, though Bush claimed in an interview with investigators that he had city and military business during all four trips. Bush told investigators he had mistakenly submitted reimbursement claims to the National Guard for two of those trips, then returned the money to the military after he was made aware of the error.

Prineville City Manager Steve Forrester said Tuesday he would not comment on the DOJ’s findings because of the suit Bush filed against the city.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com