City Manager Bob Francis fired Police Chief Bruce Ludwig after a brief meeting Friday morning, an action that had been approved by City Council on Monday.
Ludwig said his firing is illegal.
Ludwig said that after a 5-minute meeting Francis handed him a letter terminating him immediately and instructing him to turn in his keys and equipment.
Francis said Friday that “our management goals and objectives are incompatible,” and that Friday’s meeting lasted 5 minutes “because Bruce made it that way.”
City Council voted unanimously Monday to support Francis’ decision to fire Ludwig if he deemed it necessary.
Francis said, “I asked him if he had anything to add to what I had told him (May 13) and he said ‘everything I want to say my attorney wrote to you.’”
Ludwig said he was not informed that the matter would be discussed at city council. It was not on the published agenda for the meeting. Francis said he presented the item in open session during the city manager report segment of the meeting.
“At this point I am surprised they didn’t give m
e the courtesy of notifying me or anyone else that they were going to have a discussion and a vote on my termination at a city council meeting, especially considering my longstanding and dedicated service to the City of Hood River,” Ludwig said.
Referring to the May 24 letter from Ludwig’s attorney, Dana Sullivan, of Portland, Francis said, “I said I had considered my decision, and that those factors that were in the letter were already being considered.
“Bruce didn’t have anything new to add today when we sat down and met, so I informed him of my decision to terminate him.”
Francis said, “This was not a predetermined decision when we talked on the 13th (of May).”
Sullivan’s letter points to one rift between Francis and Ludwig, stating that on April 9, 2011, “Chief Ludwig challenged a directive that you had given him regarding scheduling within the police department that would have had a negative impact on paid benefits available to officers under their collective bargaining agreement with the city.”
Francis said that dispute “has an effect on my decision equal to every other point I would have on my decision. But that’s not the reason Bruce was terminated.
“I was provided a letter by his attorney during the week that I didn’t think added anything to make me reverse my decision,” Francis said, adding that because Ludwig has consulted an attorney he could not cite other reasons for the decision to fire Ludwig.
Sullivan wrote Francis that during Ludwig’s six years serving as the city’s chief of police, his formal performance reviews have been favorable.
The last such review was August 2009, according to Francis. Ludwig’s next scheduled review was June 1.
“I am supposed to conduct a performance evaluation on department heads as close as possible to the anniversary date,” Francis said.
He said, “I do not know,” when asked why no review was done in 2010.
Sullivan said in her letter, that Ludwig “has never been subject to discipline of any kind or been given any indication that his employment was in jeopardy.”
When asked to comment, Francis said, “That’s what Bruce told
Sullivan’s letter cites the city ordinance that states “discharge is the involuntary termination of employment based on unsatisfactory performance or conduct” which is “generally preceded by progressive discipline except in “serious or extreme situations” where immediate termination may be warranted.
“In the case of the police chief, dismissal by the city manager requires not only cause but also the consent of a majority of all members of the council.”
Ludwig said Friday that “Without consideration of these issues, Mr. Francis responded by firing me immediately.
I value the six years that I have served as chief of police for the Hood River community.
I am only sorry that the city manager does not value my service to the same degree.”
With Ludwig’s termination, Sgt. Neal Holste remains acting police chief. Francis said that “now it is time to move forward. I will meet with Sgt. Holste after the (Memorial Day) holiday and we’ll lay out a direction in which we need to go until at some point in time we see what happens.”