Editorial: Low morale not Silverman’s fault

2013-02-27T17:00:00Z Editorial: Low morale not Silverman’s fault Lebanon Express
February 27, 2013 5:00 pm

In the last three years, the citizens of Lebanon have probably heard more about the inner workings of its police department and city management than it has in a while.

We have seen five different faces in the position of chief: Mike Healy, who retired in 2010 after 11 and a half years. Mike Schulte served as interim chief until Thor Dahle was recruited and hired from Minnesota. He left in June 2011, 10 months after accepting the job and five months after the assistant city manager/human resources manager, HR assistant and payroll specialist relocated to the justice center.

Schulte took the interim chief job again to help out in the department.

In March 2012, 13 people applied for the chief’s job, including Ben Silverman. After offering the job to Mark Daniel he accepted and then changed his mind and then to Jeffrey Chen, who was embroiled in controversy in his home department near Seattle, Silverman was offered the job and accepted.

Now Frank Stevenson fills the role as interim chief.

Meanwhile, the police department has faced many challenges, including a detective who was in a coma for about a month, an officer-involved shooting, culling turkeys, and the Teamsters’ local calling for the elimination of two city administrator positions.

Its building, which so impressed chief candidates in both the 2010 recruitment and in the one held in 2012, is now shared with administration who seem to be controlling promotions and mirco-managing how officers and staff work together.

We are incredulous that, in Silverman’s final evaluation with the city he served for 17 years, his “lack of decision making regarding staffing” is credited as causing low morale in the department.

“Overall, a fear of speaking to Assistant City Manager (Ginger) Allen regarding employment-related concerns was expressed by multiple employees throughout the city,” Renee Starr said in her investigation into the workplace environment of the justice center in September 2012.

She further said management employees in the justice center described Allen as “difficult, aggressive, and sometimes argumentative.”

Starr’s investigation showed distrust in both Allen and City Manager John Hitt.

If morale is low in the justice center and in the police department, we would argue that Starr’s report points to a more logical reason than Silverman, just six months into his first chief position, not immediately hiring and promoting people.

We would say the instability in the leadership position coupled with fear of retaliation — whether real or perceived — would cause a low morale amongst anyone, sworn officer or not.

In January 2011, the Teamsters joined ranks with members of Oregon American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, council 75, to call for the elimination of two administrator positions before accepting further layoffs or cuts in the unions’ ranks.

Some of the cost-cutting options presented to officers at that time included layoffs, not filling open positions, closing the jail and no longer prosecuting misdemeanors. In fact, according to the 2013 State of the Cities report by the League of Oregon Cities, Lebanon has stopped prosecuting misdemeanors.

It must take a toll on morale knowing that charges against bad guys may not even be followed through in court. Lebanon’s crime rate was below state average in 2009, for the first time in at least seven years. Since then, it has climbed steadily, from 411 to more than 500.

We find it unbelievable that one of the things Silverman was marked down on was because he took weeks to clean up the chief’s office so it would be presentable to the public and staff.

It was our understanding he never moved into the office that was built for Lebanon’s chief of police.

The office he occupied was in the back of the building, away from the tall bullet-proof windows that lined the chief’s office when Healy helped design the building.

Finally, Allen took Silverman’s gun, keys and car on or before Jan. 17. His “severance agreement” is dated Jan. 17. Hitt told the Lebanon Express that Silverman’s last day was Jan. 25.

This is just one of the many anomalies in the Silverman file and illustrates the complete lack of communication between employees and the public.

City management couldn’t decide when Silverman’s last day was.

We are hopeful that the city council has made finding a city manager a priority. We see it as absolutely the No. 1 job of the council right now, and hope whoever is hired will take whatever steps are necessary to clean out city hall and hire a permanent police chief.

Copyright 2015 Lebanon Express. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. HotTopix
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    HotTopix - March 18, 2013 10:25 am
    The newspaper even said, I believe, that he had dual offices.He would keep an office at City Hall but had another one at the Justice Center. Geez just because he meets with the public at city hall means he only has 1 office. Get real! He kept that one because he couldn't very well be meeting a bunch or people at the Justice Center because of the security. Another example of having your brains sucked out once you get elected.
  2. SimpleTruth
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    SimpleTruth - March 14, 2013 9:35 am
    To say Hitt NEVER had an office at the Justice Center is incorrect.
    To assume life in Lebanon didn't exist until you became councilor is absurd!
  3. Councilor Bolen
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    Councilor Bolen - March 13, 2013 11:53 pm
    I have made at least a dozen trips to Mr. Hitt's office since January 9, 2013. Each trip has been to City Hall, not to the Justice Center. I have also made upwards of 20 trips to the Justice Center since January 9, 2013. I've been in the admin area as well as the police area numerous times and have yet to see an office for Mr. Hitt.

    Here's an idea, LetsJustSay: You name the day and the time and you and I will meet at the Justice Center for a tour and we can both see for ourselves what the truth is.
  4. LetsJustSay
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    LetsJustSay - March 13, 2013 4:17 pm
    I find it incredulous that a newly elected member of the city council is completely unaware that the city manager is utilizing office space in the Justice Center.

    Among other things that is what the public is upset about and why they voted the old city council members out!

    So much for change.....
  5. SimpleTruth
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    SimpleTruth - March 13, 2013 2:48 pm
    Outrageous is 100 percent correct.
    Seems like Mr. Bolen has drank too much of the City's kool-aid!
  6. outrageous
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    outrageous - March 11, 2013 8:31 pm
    I have friends that work in the JC. They were told that Hitt does have an office there...as well as at City Hall.
  7. LetsJustSay
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    LetsJustSay - March 08, 2013 4:02 pm
    My apologies. I'm not good at utilizing this comment section. I'm afraid the last comment sent prior to my ability to finish it.
  8. LetsJustSay
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    LetsJustSay - March 08, 2013 3:59 pm
    BTW, it was my understanding reading the material that Silverman's keys,badge, and service weapon were given up in December when he was advised to take his mandatory leave.

    Why would Silverman be upset if Allen hadn't asked for it prior to the apparent forced resignation? Was requesting his badge, keys, and duty weapon was a blatant nudge in the direction certain people wanted him to go

    Whether Silverman was the correct person for the city or not, the blame if he was not ( interesting Hitt utilized the word "skeletons" in his memo to Allen referencing Silverman)falls directly upon the administration for not thoroughly checking into the Chief candidates.

    rior to offering first the position to a Washington man, whom with simple Internet googling BY CITIZENS of Lebanon, mind you
  9. LetsJustSay
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    LetsJustSay - March 08, 2013 3:34 pm
    Dworrier- They don't care!

    Has ANYONE checked into the possible issue of loosing LEDS access, which is vital to the police officer if they were to come down and investigate and find computer systems not secured to their standards with a portion of city hall now dwelling were they don't belong?

    Has anyone considered a case being challenged (that is a "when" not an "if") by an alert defense attorney because unauthorized personnel are in the Justice Center? Just because an Assistant City Manager and her entourage wants to take on the unofficial capacity of "Commissioner of Police". And the City Manager,Mayor, and new City Council Members are willing to stand behind this......it will mean nothing when a suave defense attorney gets a case that may have been compromised in front of a judge or jury.

    You have an ex-police officer as a mayor, whom I assume is knowledgeable in LEDS system as well as the criminal court proceedings. Are you serious Lebanon

    Having watched what's been happening through an excess of 35 years - the last few have been like watching a goat rodeo. A Lebanon Justice Center to be proud of? I don't think so.
  10. Councilor Bolen
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    Councilor Bolen - March 07, 2013 10:59 pm
    Just an FYI, John Hitt's office is not in the Justice Center. It is at City Hall, and always has been.
  11. dworrier
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    dworrier - March 07, 2013 11:04 am
    Interesting that Hitt and Allen seem so immune or impervious to the public discourse on the discord their decisions and occupation of the Justice Center have generated, but what's scarier is with all said and exposed they don't seem to be bothered enough to move out. That kind of dismissive arbitrary power creeps me out.
  12. outrageous
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    outrageous - March 06, 2013 1:35 pm

    Hitt occupies the bulletproof chief's office. Ginger is also in a bullet proof office...either the one designated for the Captain or Lieutenant, I can't remember now which one.
  13. John Puma
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    John Puma - March 01, 2013 10:18 am
    Finding a city manager should be THE priority, of course, but what candidate who is intelligent enough to be desirable to the city would be willing to step into this miasma ... like several recent police chief candidates?
  14. dworrier
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    dworrier - February 28, 2013 5:46 pm
    Well stated Emiley. So Silverman was put at the back of the building? Well who occupies the bullet proof supposed chief's office?
  15. HotTopix
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    HotTopix - February 28, 2013 9:01 am
    "We are hopeful that the city council has made finding a city manager a priority. We see it as absolutely the No. 1 job of the council right now, and hope whoever is hired will take whatever steps are necessary to clean out city hall and hire a permanent police chief."

    That goes for all of us who call Lebanon home! Working on a Facebook page for the city, etc. well isn't that special? Come on! Get it together and FIX the problems going on at our city! Mayor and council please grow a pair and do something. WHY has this been allowed to go on for so long? HOW can 2 people wield the power they seem to have to make all the employees miserable? Yeah blame Silverton for low morale. That is a joke!
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