Questions arise about Seaside interim police chief's number-two man.
Monday, October 19, 2009
For the past several months, Seaside’s top managers have been taking a verbal beating over their handling of a personnel mash-up at the police department. Now, a new question has arisen over the hiring of an interim officer.
Shortly after placing Police Chief Steve Cercone on paid administrative leave in August, the city hired Steve Willis, a retired Sausalito police chief, to fill in as interim chief. Willis brought in long-time colleague Don MacQuarrie, also of Sausalito, to serve in a position he then characterized as “interim deputy chief.”
As the Weekly first reported Aug. 27, the city may have violated state Peace Officer Standards and Training rules by allowing Willis to assume chief duties before passing a requisite background check. Now it appears that MacQuarrie's hire may have been problematic, too.
Last spring, MacQuarrie filed an “industrial disability” retirement claim on the grounds that work-related injuries left him unable to perform his duties as police captain. Under California Public Employees Retirement System rules, any position taken after disability retirement “must be in a position significantly different from the job in which you were found to be disabled.”
But former SSPD chief Tony Sollecito says he doesn’t see a difference between MacQuarrie’s former position and his current one. “If he is serving as a deputy police chief, that’s a police captain’s job,” he says. “Same duties, same pay.”
Although he was introduced to the press as an interim deputy chief, MacQuarrie is officially classified as an “interim deputy executive director,” according to city Personnel Services Manager Roberta Greathouse: “He’s what we’re considering to be a nonsworn middle manager doing administrative-type work.”
Willis says he doesn’t have access to MacQuarrie’s retirement information, and MacQuarrie could not be reached for comment.
The questions about MacQuarrie’s disability payments come in the larger context of the SSPD shake-up. Officials are keeping mum on the circumstances that put Cercone and three officers on time-out. The city has retained one outside law firm to provide counsel about the personnel issue, a private investigator to probe Cercone’s conduct, and another firm to look into Cercone’s grievance against City Manager Ray Corpuz.
At the Oct. 15 council meeting, Carmel resident Albérte Estrada made a reference to an organized movement in support of the ousted chief. “Remove this city manager before he drags you all down with his own complicity,” he said. “Reinstate Chief Cercone without further delay.”