Costa Mesa police chief resigns

Chris Shawkey

COSTA MESA — Police Chief Chris Shawkey, who had been placed on paid leave by the former city manager, confirmed Tuesday that he has resigned.

Shawkey did not give a reason for his departure, but he had been under fire for travel vouchers indicating he may have expensed mileage for personal trips to Arizona, where he lived prior to accepting the job here.

“I’m proud of the job I’ve done in my four years at the department, no matter what others may think,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I was lead representative on several highly controversial issues for the city, including illegal immigration, day laborers, the massage parlor moratorium and medical marijuana.

“I never shied away from the difficult issues, and I always told people the truth. Even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.”

Shawkey and then-Capt. Ron Smith were put on leave by then-City Manager Allan Roeder in November.

Roeder declined to say why the men were put on leave, but public records revealed that Shawkey had expensed thousands of dollars in mileage for trips to Arizona and other states. Both men were routinely absent from their posts, sources within the department said.

Following an otherwise distinguished three-decade career, Smith retired earlier this year.

“This has been a lengthy process and a time of uncertainty for everyone at our department,” said Costa Mesa Police Officer Assn. President Jason Chamness in an e-mail. “With Chief Shawkey’s resignation, I hope that CEO Tom Hatch makes the right decision and hires the chief that truly knows our city and who cares most about this department and the citizens we serve.”

City Manager Tom Hatch said the city will immediately begin recruiting for a new chief and in the meantime, Capt. Les Gogerty will remain interim-chief as he has since November.

In the e-mail, Shawkey argued he and his fellow officers have made gains against crime in the city, despite dwindling manpower and financing.

There are 40 fewer employees than last year, but citizen academies are filled to capacity, violent crime dropped 30% in 2010 and traffic fatalities are down. There also has not been an unsolved homicide on his watch, Shawkey said.

“The city is moving in a different direction now, as evidenced by the decision of the City Council to try and outsource as many services as possible,” Shawkey wrote. “It’s time for me to do likewise. To those employees who have supported me during this difficult time, I want to thank them and I wish them well in the future.”

Shawkey’s annual salary is $200,644.63, according to 2010 city records.