By Deb Murphy

The Yorba Linda firm of Norman A. Traub Associates has been hired by the City of Bishop to investigate allegations made by seven members of the Bishop Police Department against retired Chief Chris Carter, City Administrative Officer Jim Tatum and Councilmember Joe Pecsi.

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The City Council approved the contract at Tuesday’s special meeting; both Tatum and Pecsi left the Council Chambers for the discussion and vote.

Jeff Johnson, a 29-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department and an attorney, will be conducting the investigation. The consultant’s fee is $200 per hour, plus expenses; $250 per hour if he is called on to testify at a hearing and $130 per hour if he is placed on call for a trial, deposition or hearing. Traub has conducted investigations for cities, counties and school districts from Central to Southern California.

Councilmember Karen Schwartz asked for an estimate as to the final cost of Johnson’s work. Sitting in for City Attorney Ryan Jones, Peter Tracy explained the contract had to be open, “we don’t know what he’ll get into.” “We have to look at all the allegations,” said Mayor Pat Gardner.

The firm’s scope of work is equally broad: “to find the facts regarding recent allegations made to … City Council of misconduct said to have been engaged in by certain officials.” Johnson will report directly to the City Council.

The allegations, made in a widely publicized letter from seven BPD officers on Sept. 26, focus on Carter “fostering an atmosphere of hostility, retaliation and unethical behavior” within the department. Pecsi, a former BPD chief, was drawn into the controversy as a partner with Carter in Sierra Tactical Training and Active Response Resources, a fire-arm training company. The allegations against Tatum center on what the letter refers to as a failure to act on issues brought to his attention within the department.

The brief Tuesday morning meeting started with questions posed by “The Sheet” Ted Carleton regarding rumors of suspensions and leaves within the department. Tatum responded that there were no suspensions or leaves last week.

The Council also approved an agreement to name Carter the short-term interim chief for the next month or until a long-term interim chief is appointed. Carter will be paid $54.52 an hour, a sum determined by dividing his annual salary of approximately $130,000 by hours worked in a year. According to Tatum, Carter, who officially retired Sept. 30, will provide administrative duties as needed.

Council also approved a $26,000 contract with Ralph Andersen and Associates for the recruitment of a permanent police chief. While Carter announced his intention to retire two months ago, Tatum explained the active search for a new chief was delayed as a cost-savings tactic. “We’ll save adequate funds,” he said “to hire the search firm.”

Carter’s one-month term as interim chief will cost the City less than the $18,000 approximate monthly cost for the position, including benefits. In addition, the long-term chief will be paid the chief’s monthly salary but will leave open his former position’s salary.

The search for a new chief will take from four to five months; no timeline was set for the investigation.