Questions arise about candidates’ backgrounds, SB’s hiring process
Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/12/2011 06:55:09 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – With two finalists having emerged in the search for a new police chief, questions already have been raised about their backgrounds and the hiring process.

Cam Sanchez, police chief for the Santa Barbara Police Department, and Cmdr. Robert Handy from the Phoenix Police Department have been identified as finalists to replace Keith Kilmer, who announced his retirement in March but has remained on an interim basis.

Each have recently had to handle highly publicized controversies in their respective police departments.

Sanchez’s department last week arrested a civilian employee on suspicion of embezzling more than $100,000 in parking ticket revenue over several years, and in a disputed series of reports from a Santa Barbara newspaper, it is alleged that a police officer there falsified several DUI arrests to make extra money.

Handy was accused – and later cleared after an internal investigation – of creating a hostile work environment for a subordinate.

One San Bernardino official expressed concern Friday about the professional integrity of the candidates.

“This is all on the mayor’s shoulders from beginning to end,” 7th Ward Councilwoman Wendy McCammack said. “Frankly, if those were the candidates the headhunter handed me, I’d ask for my money back.”

McCammack said there are a lot of question marks after the candidates’ names.

“In the years past, (police chief) candidates’ records were so clean and so filled with integrity that there would be no question who would go to the top,” she said. “It doesn’t seem that way in this (instance).”

Mayor Pat Morris immediately fired back at McCammack in a statement.

“Once again, McCammack demonstrates why she’s unfit to lead and frankly not worth listening to because she makes declarations on matters she knows little about and is unqualified to speak on,” he said.

According to the City Charter, it is the mayor’s responsibility to appoint a police chief, subject to the approval of the City Council.

The Mayor’s Office has had that authority since 1905 and maintains a relative amount of flexibility when it comes to paring down the candidates, according to City Attorney James F. Penman.

“The mayor is the appointing authority, and he can use whatever process he determines,” Penman said.

In Morris’ case, he has used the services of Bob Murray and Associates, a Roseville-based recruiting firm, to find Kilmer’s replacement.

The cost for the firm is around $23,900, according to city officials.

In June, Morris said the city had cut a list of 36 applicants down to six.

Candidates underwent a background check and last month sat through interviews with different panels – one that included local police chiefs, and the other made up of community leaders.

“Every finalist for police chief has been personally interviewed and evaluated by a panel of distinguished police chiefs from the region and a diverse panel of distinguished community leaders,” Morris said. “Both panels rated the finalists as outstanding.”

But McCammack, while acknowledging the authority of the City Charter, said Morris’ selection process so far has shut out elected leaders.

To read entire story, click here.