Swope should be held accountable

City manager's mistake has cost $500,000 and many good officers

Posted: Monday, August 28, 2006

In light of the recent news regarding the Juneau Public Safety Employees Association prevailing on both issues that went before an arbiter this past January, one has to ask who is accountable.

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As a taxpayer, I'd like to know if the Assembly is asking for an explanation from our city manager. The manager is the "last man standing," so to speak, of those responsible for allowing this to happen. Police Chief Richard Gummow resigned. Joan Wilkerson, the former city personnel director, resigned. The Juneau Police Department administrative officer resigned. Mr. Swope is left to sign the checks, I guess. Checks funded by us trusty property owners and taxpayers. Checks that are estimated to total, when it's all said and done, at around $500,000.

It's not like this outcome was not forecasted, and forcefully so. It's not like 99 percent of the officers, along with their families, their friends, and a whole lot of community members didn't try to convey the issues to the manager, and the Assembly. There were letters to the editor, e-mails, letters to the Assembly, even a well-attended peaceful demonstration in Marine Park.

But the Assembly, in its wisdom, chose to leave the decision to our city manager. I respect that right. I also expect the Assembly to hold Mr. Swope accountable for what has turned out to be a terrible decision on his part, and a very costly one to the city of Juneau. The cost I speak of is strictly monetarily because the loss of offices due to the faith placed in Swope is sickening. No amount of money can replace what the city has lost in regards to officers and their families.

Mr. Swope chose not to listen to the approximately 160 Juneau Police Department officers and family members. He chose to discount the hundreds of other community members as well. He rather chose to go with one man, Mr. Gummow. Poor choice, sir. I'm sure you recognize that by now. And now who pays? We the taxpayer. How many city programs could a half million dollars help. How many nonprofits could benefit from that money?

Former Deputy Mayor Marc Wheeler said, "I have to believe that Chief Gummow is doing the right thing." Well Mr. Wheeler, when you put all your faith in one man instead of listening to the masses, you usually lose. You lost! I'll repeat what I wrote during that time, "Stop believing and start demanding information."

Well Mr. Stone, Mr. Wanamaker, Mr. Sanford, Mr. Peterson, Mr. Dybdahl, Mr. Bush, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Doll and Mr. Botelho. Which one of you is going to ask the tough questions now? Which one of you is going to stand up and demand answers? Your constituents asked that of you once and were denied. Maybe a half million dollars of your constituents hard-earned money will inspire you this time. I hope so, because Chief Gummow stood before you in your chambers, right after he was lauded by the manager as being basically infallible, and told you the cost of the change he was unilaterally going to be implementing would be negligible. Not the case. But we told you that.

Members of the Assembly, you gave the manager free reign and he stuck it to you. He stuck it to all taxpayers. And he really stuck to those men, women and their families who give their all day in and day out.

• David Wrightson has worked for the Juneau Police Department since 1994.

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