Ed Brookshier announced Monday night that he was placing Dan Coulombe, Hermiston's embattled chief of police, on administrative leave.
The move is effective immediately. Lt. Jason Edmiston will take over running the daily operations of the department.
Coulombe's annual salary is $99,023. His total salary and benefits package as listed by the city is worth $148,697.
The announcement followed a nearly hourlong executive session and the exodus of what started as a full house, several of whom had addressed the council prior to executive session with what appeared to be prepared notes.
Most comments revolved around the pending investigation into allegations by the Hermiston Police Association that Coulombe has practiced bullying and harassing behavior towards his employees.
When the police chief loses trust with his employees and his staff, he loses trust with the people of Hermiston, John Kirwan said. Kirwan also advised the council to place Coulombe on full administrative leave until an investigation can be completed.
This is an extraordinary action, Mitch Myers said of the police union's request. Myers is currently involved in an ongoing lawsuit that names Coulombe as a defendant
Myers urged the city to take the union take the matter seriously, while former council member Manuel Gutierrez agreed, but asked the council to remember every coin has two sides. Gutierrez told the council he felt Coulombe had done a good job in representing the Hispanic community during his tenure.
Coulombe's attorney, George Anderson, also addressed the council, reading a letter he delivered to the council Monday.
I seriously question whether 90 percent of the Association approved the sending of Mr. Goldberg's character assassination letter, Anderson read.
Jaime Goldberg is the attorney representing the Hermiston Police Association who delivered the letter on behalf of the union requesting the investigation.
Anderson also called for proof that the stated 90 percent of the union supported the claims listed in the letter, and suggested the department would not continue to insist on excellence.
The City should not grant the Police Association any kind of investigation without it providing better evidence that one is warranted, Anderson stated, pointing out the union letter was vague in its claims.
Anderson also suggested a small group of union leaders were behind the push for an investigation, and that they were playing fast and loose with the truth to accomplish their goals.
Despite Anderson's best efforts, however, Brookshier placed Coulombe on leave for an indefinite period and announced the city and the police union have settled on former Hillsboro Chief of Police Ron Louie as the independent investigator.
He is not available until the first week in October, Brookshier told the council.
In the meantime, Edmiston will take the helm of the department.
I think we have dedicated employees, Edmiston said. I'm very optimistic we will transition very smoothly.
Edmiston added the focus of the department will be to continue providing quality service to Hermiston.