City manager rehires former police chief

Richard Gummow to return to helm of JPD this summer

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2002

Former Juneau Police Chief Richard Gummow will be the new chief of police beginning in June, but a retired police lieutenant is questioning the decision.

City Manager Dave Palmer today announced his appointment of Gummow. He will replace Mel Personett, who said earlier this month that he would resign.

Gummow, 58, was Juneau police chief from 1993 to 1999, when he retired, citing family reasons for his departure.

Retired police Lt. Ron Forneris, in a letter to the Empire published today, said he was disappointed in the process Palmer used for hiring Gummow.

Forneris wrote that inasmuch as a great deal of time, effort and money went into hiring the current assistant chief and captain, "it seems ludicrous to set it all aside in favor of reappointing someone who came to Juneau as a frustrated 'little shark' from the Bay Area shark pond."

Forneris wrote that Gummow had inflated the police budget "beyond any sane or defensible level."

Forneris, through a friend, declined to respond to questions from the Empire.

Palmer said he is confident he made the right decision.

Gummow "worked very hard to improve hiring standards, develop personnel and training programs and establish operating procedures that are in place today," said Palmer in a press release.

Palmer said in an interview today that to his knowledge no one else had applied for the position since the city advertised it earlier this month.

Assistant Chief Greg Browning had said he was interested in the position. He was unavailable for comment by the Empire's midday deadline.

City Attorney John Corso said Gummow's appointment was within the city manager's discretion. The chief's position is designated "partially exempt" and not subject to the same procedural mandates of other city positions, Corso said.

"It's like the governor appointing commissioners," said Corso. "You wouldn't see an ad in the paper for a new attorney general. The governor would just appoint one. That is similar to what happened here."

Corso said openings for other positions would have been advertised, and interviews in which candidates were asked the same questions would have been conducted.

However, Palmer said because the city already has seen what Gummow can do as chief, it was unnecessary go through the typical hiring process. Palmer said Gummow was put through an extensive interview when he applied for the position in 1993 and did not have to go through one again.

According to Gummow's 1993 resume, he came to Juneau from California, where he had worked for nearly 31 years in law enforcement. Gummow did not submit a resume this year.

During his time as chief, Palmer said, Gummow was involved in the development and design of the new police station as well as expanding and strengthening the community-policing program. During Gummow's six years with the department, six officers were added and the budget grew from around $6 million to about $7.5 million, according to police statistics at the time.

Gummow said "coming home" to Juneau is something he and his wife, Cynthia, have wanted to do since they left three years ago. Gummow and his wife cared for ailing family members in California and the Midwest, and ultimately settled in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Gummow was a licensed private investigator.

"The timing was perfect to come back," Gummow said. "When we left Juneau it wasn't a decision we really wanted to make. ... We've enjoyed our time in Florida but it's not home. We want to come home to Juneau."

Gummow said he is looking forward to continuing to improve the department's relations with the community and the media.

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