Steve Searles of Mammoth is recognized nationally for his wildlife management methods, while in his own town, where he invented those methods, the Town Council cant manage to find a way to work with him.
Searles says that when he walked into the Town Council meeting Wednesday night, he knew the Council had decided not to re-hire him at a closed session meeting Tuesday night. With no chance at getting his job back after being fired from the Mammoth Police Department a year ago, Searles gave the Council and town staff a piece of his mind.
Though it appears that the decision was made in closed session the day before, Town Manager Rob Clark cited cost concerns for not being able to hire Searles at this time. The inability of Police Chief Randy Schiele and Steve Searles to work together was not cited as a reason not to hire Searles back, neither was the fact that the town hired an investigator to look into that relationship.
Searles said that town officials were not telling the truth about why they wouldn’t hire him, and spoke of the years of successful work with the wildlife, not just bears. After working for years for no money, Searles was angry that all that work was now being ignored.
Searles was upset by how the Town had handled this entire situation, from his being fired in the first place, through the creation of bear committees that did not include himself or any wildlife experts for that matter, to hiring the investigator. Searles also took issue with the Town’s contention that they cant afford to hire him.
The investigation into problems between Chief Schienle and Searles reported that no laws were broken, but every thing else in that report remains confidential. One thing is clear, despite claims of financial troubles or merits of a non-profit bear group, the bad blood from behind closed doors continues between Searles and Town officials.
In the end, the Council approved possibly having community members form a non-profit bear management group like the Tahoe Bear League. When the Council approved this vague option to have someone else take on wildlife, they essentially washed their hands of Steve Searles.
What this citizens group will look like is unclear. When we called Mammoth Human Resources Director Michael Grossblatt, he explained that the town will have minimal involvement in order to let the group take on its own identity, but the idea would be to have volunteers work with the Police and Fish and Game. The Town might organize some initial meetings and possibly contribute money to the effort. Grossblatt says that town staff will hopefully have something out on the subject next week. When asked if Searles would be invited to join this group, Grossblatt said, Absolutely.
Whether this yet to be defined citizens group proves to be an effective solution is yet to be seen. What is clear is that with this decision to re-invent bear management in Mammoth, the Council abandoned something that worked to take on an unknown.