Police Lt. takes issue with Mayor’s comments

MLPD 3-23-10As the very tense issue over proposed cuts of nearly half of the Mammoth Police force continues to unfold, Mammoth’s Police Lieutenant has taken issue with a statement made by the Mayor over a potential reserve or volunteer police program.  The Mayor apologized for his “misinterpretation.”

When Sierra Wave Media contacted Lieutenant John Mair about his views, he said the option of a reserve or volunteer program does not exist in Mammoth Lakes and that reserves can not replace regular police.

In an interview with Sierra Wave Media, Mayor Matthew Lehman commented that  the proposal to cut seven officers from the seventeen-officer department could be modified or changed.  He referred to a “letter from Lt. Mair who said we need time to put in place a reserve and volunteer-type program, as much as six months,” said the Mayor.

In an email to the Town Council, Lt. Mair made it clear that our story quoting Mayor Lehman did not represent his views.  When asked about his comment on Lt. Mair’s memo, Mayor Lehman said, “I guess I interpreted it that way.  That was my mistake,” he said.  Then the Mayor said that he would like to hear why a reserve/ volunteer program doesn’t work.  “I think we have to do the research,” said Lehman.  He apologized for his misinterpretation of Lt. Mair’s memo and added that the Town is “looking for other solutions and how not to make the police cuts.”

In a memo that went to the Town Council, Lt. Mair had said that the “plan to eliminate seven sworn positions and replace them with reserve or volunteers is not a viable option here in Mammoth.” Mair said the population base is not large enough here. He said reserves do contribute but can not replace regular officers. Mair said the Council wants to eliminate seven positions and then find a way to supplement the work force later instead of building a pool of volunteers and reserves first.  Mair said, “Making these cuts without a workable solution in place is just a big gamble, and speaking from my experience I do not believe it is viable.”

Mair also pointed out that reserves and volunteers take more supervision and training than regular officers.  He asked, who will recruit, train and work with these volunteers since the officers left will already be doing many more jobs than before.  Lt. Mair was adamant in his concern that the Town can not replace 46% of the department with volunteers.  He called this idea “ludicrous.”  (Read below – Lt. Mair’s original memo to the Police Chief and Town Council and his second communication after the Mayor’s comments.)

(This is the original memo that went to the police chief and the Town Council)

I’ve been reading with interest the discussions on reserve officers and volunteers to replace full time, sworn officers here at MLPD and feel that I need to contribute. First, the plan to eliminate seven sworn positions and replace them with reserve or volunteers is not a viable option here in Mammoth. I have worked at departments with Police Reserve Officers and they do contribute to the community, but not as replacements for regular officers.

Here in Mammoth, we do not have the population base to draw from to get the needed amount of officers to fill the vacancies created by these extreme cuts, nor do I believe that this plan has been thoroughly investigated as being viable. The Council wants to eliminate seven positions, then find a way to supplement the work force at a later date, rather than building a pool of volunteers and reserves first, getting them hired, trained and on board  prior to stripping the PD. Making these cuts without a workable solution in place is just a big gamble, and speaking from my experience I do not believe it is viable.

The proposal suggests cutting almost ALL police supervision (Lieutenant and two Sergeants) leaving a Sergeant to handle all administrative and patrol functions. This leaves NO supervision in the field, a situation that asks for problems. In addition, volunteers and reserves take more supervision and training than regular officers (they are here only part time, not dedicated to this profession, have limited exposure to situations, etc..) so who do you suggest will recruit, train and work with these volunteers? The officers that are left here after the cuts are made? The same ones that will already be asked to work more, make decisions that a supervisor should be making, deal with the day-to-day decisions that a supervisor makes as well as the collateral assignments that will have to be doled out to each officer? I’m talking scheduling, training, range duties, arrest and control, investigations, internal affairs complaints….the list goes on, but you get my point.

Or will that responsibility go to the lone Sergeant who is left, piling more onto an already overloaded plate of responsibilities?  So these same officers now saddled with all the before-mentioned items, will then be expected to train, supervise, document and deal with part-time amateurs in addition to their regular duties? Don’t get me wrong, volunteers have good hearts and are generally good people wanting to help, but that is a small part. Expecting to replace 46%of this department with volunteers is ludicrous.  would we suggest this for the any other position in this town? I know that you are being directed to take this approach to solve a budget dilemma, but at some point the truth of the matter has to be told in no uncertain terms: THIS APPROACH IS NOT VIABLE AND WE NEED TO FIND A SOLUTION THAT IS!!

I realize that my position has been cut, but these suggested solutions have a potential for disaster for the department and the town. I believe that we should be spending this valuable time on workable solutions since we are not an apparent tight time frame. We should look at how we are going to deliver service with only ten sworn officers; developing a schedule that accurately reflects a part-time police department since we will not be able to cover a 24/7 schedule; look at cutting services that are not required by the PD such as traffic accidents, fingerprinting, civil stand-by calls, etc..; Having a large part-time reserve or volunteer program will cause us MORE work not less, even if we did have the pool of citizens to draw from.

Just my thoughts, John.

(Below is the second communique from Lt. Mair to the Town Council)

Town Leaders,
I read the story posted on Sierra Wave today (October 9, 2012) By Benett Kessler regarding police department cuts and the decision making process behind it. I recently wrote a memo regarding the viability of reserve officers and volunteers to staff the department in place of full-time sworn officers, and thought I was clear about the chances of success that this proposal has. The Sierra Wave article refers to my memo as saying that we need up to six months to get a viable program up and running to fill seven vacancies at the PD. Let me be clear to all of you: That is not what I said. I have attached the memo in its entirety below for you to read. Having worked in departments where viable reserve and volunteer programs exist, that option DOES NOT EXIST HERE IN MAMMOTH.

When you have a large population base such as Southern California, you have a large pool of people willing to volunteer, a situation that we do not have here. In addition, most reserve officers have other full-time employment and are usually required to meet a two-shift per month commitment to the department. With that, its takes years to recruit, train and certify a reserve to the level that they could work by themselves. POST recently changed requirements for reserves making the commitment to be a reserve officer about the same as a full-time officer. They certainly are good for riding in the car with a full-time officer and learning the job, but are not a replacement for them.

The same situation exists for volunteers:  usually retired citizens who want to stay involved but they cannot supplant regular officers. They work part-time when they can, but have other pressing issues in their lives as retirees. As you will read in the memo attached below, I feel that we need to be looking at realistic, viable solutions to this problem, not constantly asking Chief Watson to conduct staff-reports on programs that are not realistic here. Most of you have known me for a long time and know that I love it here, as does Chief Watson. Between the two of us we have about 70 years on the job so how about including us in finding solutions rather than directing us to conduct busy-work that will end up wasting all of our collective time?

I wouldn’t assume to tell any of you how to run your businesses as an outsider and not knowing the business, I would probably consult with someone who has been in the business awhile and learn about it and then make informed decisions. Both Chief Watson and I are here for a reason, and that’s to help find a workable solution and shape the departments’ future. It has been rare that I have worked directly with any of you. My job is to support the Chief and run the day-to-day operations of the department, but such a role demands that I say what is needed. This solution will not work and is not viable in the next year at least, most likely several years. Please read the memo I sent yesterday it is attached below. Again, we are here to help with the situation, not to work against you, so contact us anytime, something that has not happened in the recent decision-making process.

Thanks for your time, John.

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24 Responses to Police Lt. takes issue with Mayor’s comments

  1. Trouble October 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    I’m starting to think a town that doesn’t look like it’s in a police state sounds pretty good to me.

  2. Stopping corruption October 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    When is a Grand Jury going to get active and investigate the power-brokers responsible for the entire mess?

    • Grand Jury Responsibilities October 15, 2012 at 6:39 am #

      Here is the Mono County Grand Jury website:
      Learn about –
      Complaint form
      These Councilmen have way too much power. Don’t ever expect them to police each other, especially when the possibility of making money through their vote exists.
      The Grand Jury may be the only way to police the councilmen.

    • Responsibilites of a Grand Jury October 15, 2012 at 8:57 am #

      Our Grand Jury only acts upon its citizens’ complaints.
      It seems there are many of these today for a host of reasons:
      ie., –
      Using voter-passed measurements for reasons other than for intended Measures XYZ morphing into a “General Fund” that the elected officials can do what they want with, etc.
      Times being as they are, perhaps its time for our Grand Jury to intervene and investigate.
      Possible corruption of elected officials.
      __________________ fill in the blank

  3. GENE HORNBECK October 14, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    NEW SIGN AT 395 AND JCT..203


  4. Charles O. Jones October 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Reserves and volunteers will never replace a professional police force. Police work is fraught with potential liablities. We have all read about high-dollar judgments from lawsuits against police officers and their employers. Relying on an untrained, inexperienced and under-supervised police force is a time bomb that will ultimately cost far more than it saves. Supplementing the existing force with reserves is one thing, but replacing professionals with weekend warriors is a recipe for further financial disasater.

    • Auxilliary Town Manager October 14, 2012 at 5:49 am #

      Where did the auxilliary Town Manager ever get the idea(or the power) to present the notion that the town would do just fine with police reserves and volunteers? Where does she live? Why does she justify this naive notion? This is not some huge metropolis. This is not Oakland. It is to my understanding that she was bitterly disappointed the Town Manager job was not offered to her. I can clearly see why it was not. The town needs much more than a person in a thousand-dollar suit who, like a corporate financial officer, is good at power-point presentations laced with all the latest tools of number crunching that quickly can confuse and confound. A town manager’s job is much more complex than that.
      You must know the territory and simply cannot alienate people of the community especially when you don’t even reside in that community. I understand she also receives free housing on her visits to Mammoth.
      It was the understanding that she would assist in the bankruptcy mess then move on.
      Yet she is still around, dictating policy for the town and bad policy at that. And receiving a handsome salary to boot.
      Something stinks here.

      • Truth Check October 14, 2012 at 10:05 am #

        The reason why MMM made the absurd statement about using volunteers and reserves is, she is trying to spin her way out of the decision to lay off seven officers. She has no clue what she is talking about.

        Volunteers cannot do any of the tasks that a police officer can do with the possible exceptions of writing parking tickets and taking simple counter reports. Reserve officers require a tremendous amount of state mandated training before they can work in the field under the direct supervision of another officer. For a reserve to work in the field alone like a full time officer requires 9 months of training full time. (Academy and FTO) Who can take 9 months off of work?

        Reserves also must pass the psyc test, physical test and a extensive background investigation. That process can take several months and few can pass all three tests.

        MMM just makes things up that sound good on the surface without doing proper research, and hoping that the citizens of Mammoth are foolish enough to take her word for it.

      • cho October 15, 2012 at 8:55 am #

        This assistant town manager should be the first to go…That would save a half million per year…right?

  5. Chris October 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    I never thought I’d see a more stupid, arrogant, self-centered, know-it-all, and ignorant council than the one in the town I left, but Mammoth’s is worse. Mammothites should be up in arms about how its council has given away its town’s future and ignores the wisdom of its professional staff, particulary in the police department.

    Public safety and public works should be the first priorities of any agency; not only is it common sense, it is essential to attracting the visitor base that a town like Mammoth so desperately wants and needs. Spending on tourism advertising is senseless without being able to protect citizens and touritst alike. Sinking money into recreational assets is desireable, but not crucial; it’s like dressing up when jeans and tennies will do; especially in a setting like Mammoth with countless outdoor recreational opportunities available, created by Mother Nature.

    I hope the council and citizenry will rethink its priorities and work together to set realistic goals, and then solve problems in a non-contentious manner. Mammoth is blessed with gifted, dedicated and talented citizens and town employees. It would be tragic if egos and posturing were to get in the way of saving the Town of Mammoth Lakes.

  6. Sean F October 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Maybe some of the laid off cops can be the new TC candidates?

  7. quietstorm October 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    It is time to ask some of our Town Council members to LEAVE….enough is enough!


    To get an idea on the number of signatures that are needed:

    The number of signatures required TO QUALIFY A PARTICULAR RECALL IS AS FOLLOWS:
    1. If an officer of a city, county, school district, county board of education, or resident voting district is sought to be recalled, the number of signatures must be equal in number to not less than the following percent of registered voters in the electoral jurisdiction:
    (a) Thirty percent if the registration is less than 1,000.
    (b) Twenty-five percent if the registration is less than 10,000 but
    at least 1,000.
    (c) Twenty percent if the registration is less than 50,000 but at
    least 10,000.
    (d) Fifteen percent if the registration is less than 100,000 but at
    least 50,000.
    (e) Ten percent if the registration is 100,000 or above8.
    8The number of registered voters is calculated as of the time of the last report of registration by the county elections official to the Secretary of State prior to the finding by the
    ***page 20***

    If there are people that are interested in taking this path for at least two of the Town Council members we should all meet to discuss– at the next Town Council meeting would be the perfect time and place!

    • Tourbillon October 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      The time to “ask” them to leave is at election. Then you don’t have to ask, you tell. But of course the last election did not exactly see a lot of people pounding down the registrar’s door to enter the race.

      I’ll sign your petition however if you will agree to fill the void we’re making on the Town Council.

  8. 1234 October 12, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Typical! The council hears what they want to.

    I especially love how they stated in the survey that “It is likely that the elimination of the 7.0 positions will be delayed until July 1, 2013, to allow for the development of the reserve and volunteer programs as means of supplementing the reduced force.”

    They are just covering their rears. Why don’t they say the true reason the date is now July 1, 2013 rather than January 1? The Police Officer’s Association has a contract that states the staffing level can not go below 17 sworn until July 1, 2013.

    • Jon Boyer October 13, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      I agree with you, 1234. The delay in the plan is because of the Police Officer’s contract, not to allow time to develope a reserve and volunteer programs. (Which are not viable anyway for all the reasons John Mair points out. And the council is very aware of that). However, I don’t understand why they don’t just break the contract. Breaking contracts seems to be their M.O. That’s what got us into this mess to begin with.

  9. No Pass Here! October 12, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    I’m beginning to see a pattern of behavior, playing dumb and apologizing whenever the mayors core values/opinions are contradicted by increasingly written and/or oral public opinions. If Rick”the weasel”Wood and John “punch drunk” Eastman is what Matthew “the snow job” Lehman uses for role models, he may also have to be replaced along with them next election if not sooner.

    The heads I win, tales you lose leadership style and arrogance got us into this fiscal quagmire. It appears to be surfacing more often than I’m comfortable with. Some people call this politics or the learning curve, I think of it as more of a deep seeded character flaw of an aspiring career politician that thinks he/she is smarter than his constituents.

  10. Get Real October 12, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    Wow! Total Honesty by Lt. Mair and Total Spin by Mayor Lehman. This says it all.

    The fact that the Town Council NEVER consulted with the Chief or Lieutenant to cut 7 officers, and how it would affect our community before making their decision, shows total incompetence on the part of the Town Council.

    The fact that the Town Council NEVER consulted with Mammoth’s citizens or looked for other options before making their decision to cut 7 officers, shows the Council’s total arrogance.

    If it had not been for that pesky legally binding contract with the POA that Council approved, 7 officers would have been laid off by January 1, 2013 after receiving their lay off notices just before Christmas.

    Of course now that the Town Council has been caught, they are trying to spin it that cutting 7 officers was just a proposal, when in fact it was a done deal.

    The Council’s latest attempt at spinning is their “Survey” with loaded questions that only give you their choices, neither of which you want. It is like asking you if you want a punch in the nose or a kick in the ass, please pick one.

    .You just can’t make this stuff up. They should at least consult with Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Karl Rove if they want to spin their way out of this. They really suck at doing it themselves.

    • Time to face reality October 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      Really? Town Council is trying to come up with a solution. They are asking for community input. The bottom line is, the Town has to pay a judgement of $2.5 million in the current fiscal year and $2 Milliion every year after for 23 years. This Council is asking for input from the community and need to make a decision in the very near future in order to meet the current year demands. The debt has to be paid.

      This community is very divided. There are so many posts…Save the Police, Save Tourism, Save Housing, Save Tranist. What is the alternative?

      The community is berating Council, and not coming up with real solutions. The council is asking for your help. They have to make a decision on this settlement. I know the Town has gone through many cuts, and services are going to be affected.

      The question remains, how do you as a community want your services affected….or are you willing to pay a little bit more to preserve our services, or are you willing to live with less. Meaning…Police Service, P&R etc…

      Stop complaining and blaiming… Come up with solutions that will move us forward!

      I know nobody wants more taxes, but we as a community need to deal with what is before us. It’s either more taxes, or less service.

      • Truth Check October 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

        Council is telling us how it is going to roll. They have already made up their minds. The survey is just political theater.

  11. H October 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Lt. Mair is one of the most honorable, caring, intelligent, and dedicated sworn law enforcement officers that has ever worked for the MLPD. He sets an exemplary example for our Police Department and the community and we are lucky to have him serve our community. How ironic then that two of the most arrogant, sneaky, egotistical, and dishonest politicians we have ever had (Mr. Eastman and Mr. Wood) are eliminating his position when in fact, the community should be booting these two individuals off the Town Council. This is truly shameful – yet shameful on us for voting these two individuals back into power. Mr. Lehman, once again you get a pass however for your inexperience and ignorance because you have shown a capacity to admit you were wrong and a willingness to learn, grow, and understand the facts.

    • Mammothite October 12, 2012 at 12:22 am #

      Lehman is not admitting he was wrong, he is pleading guilty to lying and getting caught by someone who actually tells the truth, Lt. Mair.

      The only out for Lehman now is to say that he never learned to read!

      The next phone call that Lehman makes will be to the Chief to to tell hin to get control of Mair. The problem for Lehman is that there is nothing he can do to someone who has 60 days left to work. Then there is that other problem, the First Amendment.

      • H October 12, 2012 at 10:47 am #

        You may indeed be correct regarding your comments on Mr. Lehman. For the sake of our community however, I truly hope my perspective on his behavior is more accurate. Our community deserves much better.

        • Knows All October 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

          People who know Mr. Lehman, know that he has an incredible dislike for MLPD due to prior encounters with MLPD that did not end well for Mr. Lehman. He has been very vocal about this over the years.

          Lehman has a hidden agenda and that is payback.


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