off over hiring
Choice of Ketchum
police chief in dispute
Express Staff Writer
midst of huge employee turnover at Ketchum City Hall, the resort city’s
police chief and mayor are facing off over the hiring of a new assistant
last week he had filled the position, each hiring a different person.
promoted Lt. Mike McNeil," Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland said.
buck has to stop with the mayor," Mayor Ed Simon said of his
decision to hire Blaine County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ron Taylor.
confrontation between Simon and Nevland is only the latest chapter in an
ongoing drama. On Nov. 3, 1992, Ketchum voters removed then-council
members Simon, Pam Ritzau and Larry Young from office just 10 months
into their terms. The recall culminated a dispute between the city
council and Nevland and involved police department officers, including
No way. It has absolutely nothing to do with ’92," Simon said,
countering allegations made by Nevland that the mayor may have chosen
not to promote McNeil because of past events.
despite Nevland’s challenge, the city’s employee handbook appears
clear on who has the ultimate hiring authority at city hall.
of the city…shall be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city
council. Other city employees shall be hired by the mayor," the
handbook is also clear about how candidates are to be selected, and it
stresses hiring internally and using department head recommendations.
shall be conducted first among current city employees to extend
promotional opportunities to them, whenever possible…Department heads
shall recommend to the mayor the hiring and termination of employees
within their departments…"
said the mandate isn’t as clear as it might seem.
really is discretionary in the eyes of the mayor," he said. "I
don’t want to say whether someone’s qualified or not qualified. The
question is: Who is most qualified?"
said the handbook is clearer than that.
whole issue here is, this person I have chosen as assistant chief has
been working here for 18 years. He’s a very committed employee who has
worked (as assistant chief) for a year and a half. He’s proven
himself. The manual is clear about internal hiring," Nevland said.
employee handbook, however, is not intended to be an exclusive
source of rules and regulations concerning employment with the city,
according to the handbook’s introduction. But local and state laws are
code says the mayor has "superintending control of all the officers
and affairs in the city," but otherwise says he or she is the chief
administrative official, subject to local and state laws. Ketchum’s
Appointive Officers ordinance cites only department heads and requires
mayoral appointments for department heads subject to city council
aside, former Ketchum police officer Pete Cantor said McNeil is the
clear choice for assistant police chief in Ketchum. Cantor resigned from
the Ketchum police force in 1976.
respect Ed (Simon), but I just disagree with his decision on this
matter," Cantor said. "My feeling on it is that it’s more
personal or political than practical."
said promotions are employee incentives that help boost morale and
can see that Mike (McNeil) does his job," Cantor said. "I know
Cal (Nevland) very well, and his having the confidence to promote Mike—I
trust Cal’s opinion very much."
Nevland, who joined the Ketchum Police Department as a dogcatcher in
1973 before climbing the ranks, said Simon ignored his accumulated
don’t think there’s anybody who has the knowledge of who is
qualified for this position better than I do," Nevland said.
said Taylor is scheduled to start Aug. 15, a date Nevland said he had
not been informed of.
only the department head. Why would I know when my assistant is going to
show up?" he said in a tone of clear sarcasm.
the second personnel snafu of Simon’s six-month tenure at Ketchum City
Hall. Before taking office last December, Simon’s intentions to
eliminate the city attorney’s position met criticism among city
council members and the community.
after being sworn in, Simon said he abandoned plans to terminate the
city attorney and eliminate the city attorney’s office.