Editorial: Prineville chief case needs full airing

It’s been nine months since Prineville put Police Chief Eric Bush on paid leave and ordered an investigation of a personnel matter described as unrelated to his conduct as a law enforcement officer.

Citizens have waited far too long for an explanation, and it now appears they might never get one. That’s unacceptable.

The city reported Thursday it has received an investigative report prepared by the Local Government Personnel Institute, which the city asked to investigate the secret allegations.

City Manager Steve Forrester said no information would be made public until an internal review is completed. And even then, he said, the report won’t be released unless the city decides to take action against Bush.

Bush has been on the Prineville police force since 1990 and its chief since 2003. He’s also a brigadier general in the Oregon Army National Guard who served 14 months in Iraq and won the Bronze Star and the combat infantry badge. In July 2013, he was assigned to train Korean and American forces, a job that meant he would split his time between Prineville and Korea. He expected to be gone from Prineville for one weekend a month and 45 additional days for a total of 74 days a year. That announcement came roughly two months before the city placed him on leave.

No matter what the city decides to do about Bush’s status as police chief, taxpayers need to know what this fuss was all about and what it cost them. The chief has been on unpaid leave for nine months, likely causing overtime or other expenses in the department while Capt. Michael Boyd filled in.

More important, putting Bush back in office with no explanation would leave suspicion hanging over a critical public officer, one in whom the public needs to have unqualified confidence. A full airing of the allegations is needed, no matter what action the city decides to take.