City Manager Joe Felz has been authorized to enter contract negotiations.
A wave of support was given to Dan Hughes in the council chambers during the meeting on December 19th, even from public speakers and council members who didn't believe it was the right time to appoint a new chief. On one side of the argument, Dan Hughes supporters state that he had done a great job in his +10 month period as the Acting Chief of Fullerton PD. If the city of Fullerton would open the process for competition as suggested by Council Members Whitaker and Sebourn, would the council require applicants to each serve a similar length of time to test their merit?
On the other side of the proverbial table, skeptics argued three other points, however each point was systematically shot down. A main issue was not whether Hughes should be appointed or not, but rather the importance of being able to negotiate oversight and the potential committee's use of subpeona powers when investigating the department. Oversight advocates stated the public would lose leverage in negotiating terms with the Chief if he was already locked into a contract.
Public speaker Sean Paden commented, "We do need to implement the oversight proposal first, before we address the issue of a permanent chief [...] If we adopt this resolution now and wait until March to take up take up the oversight proposal, we will have forfeited the leverage that we currently have to convince the chief to implement the reform proposals that have been suggested."
Council Member Doug Chaffee noted on the costs involved for the proposed independent oversight committee:
"My concern is there has never been a budget [describing] how much this would cost. It talks about staffing it with paid staff. Funding controlled by the council. Budget for an independent investigator and translator. It talks about having the abillity to subpeona testimony, which means you need a lawyer. It seems to me this whole thing probably could cost half a million dollars a year. There is no budget or any costing attached to this. I would really like to see where the money's going to come from."
Chaffee added that he likes the idea of civilian input, but that he'd like it to be forward looking, community oriented, and that he'd like to "see it in a positive way, but not a backwards looking way". The Mayor Pro-tem urged a workshop to discuss ideas hopefully with more thrift involved in spending.
The second point against the immediate appointment of Dan Hughes cited Resolution 8485 which states,
"...it shall be the policy of the City to recruit from within the organization whenever practical, and a sufficient number of applications are received except that all Department Head recruitment shall also be opened to outside candidates."
Council Member Jan Flory asked City Attorney Dick Jones to clarify the issue, and it was stated that direct appointments from the council were exempt from the resolution in question. Public speakers mentioned that opening up the contract from outside bidders is how Former Chief Michael Sellers came to lead the department prior to the Kelly Thomas Incident.
The third issue was the letter from Officer Benjamin Lira originally posted via KFI on November 26th, and reposted here on The Fullertonian and the blog, Fullerton's Future. While the letter made weighty accusations about Hughes' lack of interest in transparency within the department, members of the public who wished to remain off record dismissed the allegations believing that Lira's statements lack credibility or evidence to back the claims.
Flory motioned early on for City Manager Joe Felz to enter contract negotiations with Chief Dan Hughes citing that she had heard the two biggest concerns of her constituent base were the future of Coyote Hills and the appointment of Dan Hughes as permanent Chief. The motion passed 3-2 with Whitaker and Sebourn casting the dissenting votes. Dan Hughes is now slated to officially the Chief of Fullerton Police Department following contract negotiations.