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City to Probe Police Union Allegations Against Chief

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

City officials have agreed to investigate officers’ complaints against veteran Police Chief Walt Adair, who has threatened to take legal action against the police union over allegations of mismanagement.

After discussing the matter in private with the City Council, Interim City Manager Murray Warden announced Monday night that he would look into the veracity of complaints against Adair.

But a police union representative on Tuesday questioned the credibility of Warden’s inquiry, saying that the city manager talked to officers about their concerns last year and that nothing was done. He said that the council’s action is simply a smoke screen to deflect criticism.

“It’s a political ploy for them to move this from the realm of public scrutiny to the back chambers of a personnel action,” said Sgt. Steve Carter, vice president of the Santa Paula Police Officers Assn.

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The police union has accused Adair of poor leadership, of hindering investigations and even of putting officers’ “lives in danger due to his failure to maintain an up-to-date knowledge of law enforcement tactics.”

But Adair, a 34-year veteran of the department, dismissed the union’s allegations, saying that its complaints have been prompted in part by ongoing labor negotiations.

Adair, 54, said he is looking into taking legal action against the union.

“I don’t believe that I’m wrong and I don’t believe I’ve done anything inappropriate or unprofessional,” said Adair, who added that he has no plans to retire from the department he has led for the last decade. “Would you like to leave with a cloud over your head after you’ve invested 34 years?”

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Carter called Adair’s threat to sue the union, presumably for libel or slander, “amusing.” Noting that truth is the ultimate defense against such a suit, Carter said officers are prepared to substantiate the specific allegations against the chief in court if necessary.

In August, 92% of the department’s unionized personnel registered a vote of no confidence in Adair, who has led the department for the past decade.

The Ventura County Grand Jury last week urged the council to settle the dispute and recommended a process be put in place to replace Adair.

Meanwhile, Warden declined to comment on the union’s charges against the chief, saying he wanted to wait until he could determine their accuracy. But he downplayed the allegations, saying Santa Paula isn’t the only city whose officers have gone public with a vote of no confidence against the chief.

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“Is there discord?” he said. “Obviously. Is there a crisis . . . so they cannot perform their duties? I would hope not.”


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