A Sitka police sergeant Tuesday became the third officer to quit or be fired amid allegations of misconduct within the department. Hours later, the Sitka Assembly voted 5-2 against conducting its own investigation of whether police and city officials violated city policies.
Alaska State Troopers last week concluded an investigation into allegations made in January by forensic scientist Brent Turvey, who was brought into the Sitka Police Department as a consultant, and by Sitka police Lt. John Baeza, who was fired in early January.
Turvey and Baeza accused Sgt. Tim Martin of receiving a copy of the exam for sergeants from former Police Chief Bill McLendon before Martin took the test, and of covering-up domestic violence crimes when they involved other officers or city employees close to the department. Martin resigned on Tuesday.
Tony Zimmer, administrator of the city of about 8,800 people, placed McLendon on administrative leave pending the results of the troopers' investigation. Before being put on leave, McLendon had announced his resignation effective Feb. 22.
Former trooper Bob Gorder, Sitka's acting chief in McLendon's absence, said he's not certain Martin's departure will have much of an effect on department investigations.
Martin "was seen at the ferry terminal yesterday and by all accounts he's left town, but that hasn't been confirmed yet," Gorder said. "This shouldn't affect the trooper investigation, and as for any potential administrative investigation it's probably a moot point now since he's no longer in the department."
Gorder declined to comment on the reason Martin resigned.
Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said troopers have concluded their investigation and soon will present findings to the state Department of Law. If troopers charge Martin with criminal misconduct, he will have to return to Sitka. Otherwise, Martin and anyone else involved in the investigation is allowed to travel freely, Wilkinson said.
City Administrator Zimmer said the Assembly won't investigate whether there were policy violations by the police and city officials.
Assembly member Marko Dapcevich and Mayor Valorie Nelson proposed in January a separate Assembly-conducted investigation. They were concerned a trooper investigation would look only at law violations and not at possible policy violations.
"Those who voted against this keep saying now's not the time," said Nelson. "But with another officer gone and people leaving town, how can we investigate after the fact? Without more information how can we make a well-informed decision?"
"It's ridiculous," said Dapcevich. "They are turning a blind eye once again to what is going on right in front of them."
Zimmer said he will do as the Assembly tells him, but that department policies will be revamped in the coming months.
Interim Police Chief Gorder is examining current policies and procedures, looking for areas to improve, and in a week former state Public Safety Commissioner Richard Burton will review the department and make recommendations for its improvement, Zimmer said.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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