Sunriver Police Chief Marc Mills, accused of striking one of his sergeants in the chest, has resigned.
The Sunriver Service District, which conducted an internal investigation into the police department, accepted Mills’ resignation Friday.
Had he been fired, Mills would have been owed six months severance pay under the terms of his contract. But Mills was still paid more than $17,000 while on administrative leave for the past two months.
Mills, 62, allegedly struck Sgt. Joseph Patnode so hard the officer’s head hit a wall, while both men were on duty. The physical altercation Dec. 1 was witnessed by a Sunriver Police administrative staff member and another Sunriver Police officer, Tiffany Hughes, who reported the incident to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
Mills’ resignation stems from the Dec. 1 incident, but the service district uncovered other alleged instances of Mills losing his temper at work and employees fearing retaliation.
Mills was not available for comment Friday, but his civil attorney Christopher Manfredi said Mills has no animosity toward the service district and looks back proudly on the work he accomplished in his more than five years in Sunriver.
“This is not how he would have preferred to have his tenure end,” Manfredi said.
Jim Fister, chairman of the service district, said Friday the district did not receive any complaints about Mills until the incident Dec. 1 with Patnode. During the internal investigation, more employees raised complaints to the district. Fister considered Mills a good police chief in Sunriver, but given the allegations, he said, he appreciates Mills recognizing the need to resign.
“I personally think this is best for him,” Fister said. “It gives him and us a sense of closure.”
Mills was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 3 pending the service district’s internal investigation and an Oregon Department of Justice criminal investigation.
The criminal investigation resulted in a misdemeanor harassment charge.
At a hearing in Deschutes County Circuit Court in January, Mills was ordered to have no contact with Patnode or Hughes, and be fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken before his plea hearing March 1.
Mills recently filed a request to be sentenced during his plea hearing. The request was approved by the court, and Mills will plead either guilty or no contest and be sentenced.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said he will not discuss the terms of the sentence before the hearing.
Erick Ward, Mills’ defense lawyer, said Friday he has reached a sentencing recommendation with the prosecution that will be presented to the judge at the court hearing. But he would not discuss the details of the recommendation.
“We have reached a joint recommendation,” Ward said. “I can’t share what that is at this point.”
Mills served as Sunriver police chief since 2012 and received an annual salary of $105,882. Additionally, the former longtime member of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office collects an annual pension benefit of roughly $138,000 from the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System.
Bend Police Chief Jim Porter assigned Capt. Cory Darling to fill in as the interim Sunriver police chief as a favor to the Sunriver Police Department. But now Darling is returning to his position with Bend Police.
At its next meeting Thursday, the Sunriver Service District will consider appointing retired Salem Police Deputy Chief Scott Hays, of Bend, to serve as the new interim police chief, Fister said. The service district will also discuss finding a permanent replacement for Mills.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, email@example.com