BURBANK — The deadline to apply for Burbank police chief closed on Friday, but City Manager Mike Flad’s pending departure for a job in the city of South Gate has raised concerns among city officials and residents about whether to continue the recruitment process.
“Common sense tells me we ought to postpone police chief recruitment at this time, and once we have a new city manager, go from there,” said Councilman Gary Bric.
Since the city manager oversees the police chief, officials say recruitment could not only be difficult, but also illogical.
“Not knowing who his boss is going to be — that’s an uncertainty which I don’t know how many people would want to take,” said Councilman Jess Talamantes.
The council will meet over the next several weeks in special, closed-session meetings to decide how to move forward, according to Mayor Dave Golonski.
“There are a lot of things going on within the city right now that we, the council, are going to have to sit down and talk about,” Bric said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re all kind of in shock, still.”
A nationwide city manager recruitment process could take up to five months, Bric added.
“Hopefully, Scott [LaChasse] will understand what’s going on and he and his command staff will stick around,” he said. “I would hope Mike [Flad] is thinking along those lines.”
Just a week before announcing his departure, Flad said that he’d hoped to select a permanent chief by mid-October. If he were to proceed as planned, a new chief would be selected just days before his pending departure on Oct. 26.
Flad said he hadn’t yet made a decision on postponing the process, but did say it’s “something that’ll have to be re-looked at.”
Resident and business owner Ara Manoogian offered to host and fund a town hall meeting to keep residents abreast of changes in city leadership.
“It’s really unfair to Mr. Flad and his possible reputation to put him in a position to actually have to hire a police chief when he’s not going to be here,” Manoogian said.
While his new job is subject to approval by the South Gate City Council on Sept. 25, Flad said he and city officials had agreed on most points of his contract.
“It’s absolutely not in my view to make such a dramatic change to the police chief when we have an outgoing city manager and very serious police matters,” said Councilman David Gordon. “The chief is the best person to be at the helm, I believe, at this period.”
LaChasse was brought in as interim police chief nearly three years ago to manage a department plagued by allegations of excessive use of force, and lawsuits filed by current and former officers claiming sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
LaChasse declined to comment on whether he had applied for the permanent position.