Willows quietly appoints police chief
Willows City Councilman-elect Bill Spears has resigned himself to the fact that he won’t be chief of police after the end of the year.
Willows police Sgt. Jason Dahl was notified Thursday that he will be named acting chief at 5 p.m. on Dec. 30, which is when Spears will vacate his office.
However, the announcement was not made public until Tuesday after the city was asked about the situation.
While Spears said he is looking forward to sitting on the dais at City Hall, when he is sworn in next month, he still has plenty of unfinished business regarding the non-renewal of his contract.
Spears is asking for more than $10,000 in damages in a lawsuit he filed in October.
Spears said losing his job was “unlawful, arbitrary and based on retaliation against political activity,” according to the claim he filed against the city.
Spears said he is also pursing legal action regarding his claim that he was working in a hostile environment for a long time leading up to his non-renewal.
The City Council has maintained it did not renew Spears’ contract for financial reasons, and disregard the chief’s allegation that it was personal.
In the suit, Spears attorney Paul Goyette specifically cites an e-mail in which Holsinger accused Spears of “misusing city time, equipment and resources,” should have been kept confidential and protected from a public record request.
The claim states that “the publication of this matter was done so maliciously in retaliation for Mr. Spears’ political involvement.”
Holsinger has repeatedly denied the allegation and said he acted only to protect the city from liability.
Although the City Council met last Wednesday in closed session to discuss Spears’ claim, Holsinger was not present.
No action was taken on the matter, but direction was given to Finance Director Tim Sailsbery, Holsinger said.
Meanwhile, city officials are working to make a smooth transition after Spears’ departure.
The city will be left with only five officers and is looking to neighboring law enforcement agencies to help fill necessary shifts to maintain a full week-long patrol schedule.
Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones said he is working on an agreement with the city to help out when needed, and that an agreement has been sent to county counsel to review.
Although nothing has been formally signed, Jones said he received a schedule of shifts needed to be filled for Willows that would start on or about the first of the New Year.
Jones said assisting the city will not reduce services to county residents, as deputies would be free to pick up shifts on their days off.
“The Sheriff’s Office stands ready to assist the City of Willows in providing adequate law enforcement services and protection,” Jones said.
He was also clear the agreement is not a contract to take over the Police Department.
“As far as I am concerned, it is about public safety to all of Glenn County and to help an allied agency - nothing more, nothing less,” Jones said.
Holsinger said he supports the agreement with the Sheriff’s Office and also expects Orland to propose a nearly identical agreement that could assist Willows in maintaining adequate police protection when needed.
The city is in the process of filling a police officer position and an officer will return from medical leave in the spring.
“I have every confidence that Chief Dahl will be able to maintain 24/7 coverage and that necessary temporary staffing will be available through the Sheriff and the City of Orland,” Holsinger said.
Spears said that while he did have some concerns about the agreement, he was excluded from all discussions despite repeated attempts since August to sit down with city officials to outline a plan for the Dec. 30 transition.
Spears said his exclusion further demonstrated Holsinger’s contempt for him, which continues to belie the necessity of his removal for financial reasons.
“It just goes to show you that there is still this aura of secrecy at City Hall and that they don’t have to answer to the citizens of Willows,” Spears said. “The City Council continues to not listen to the public. That is something I hope to change when I am on the council.”