Hood River Police Chief Bruce Ludwig was placed on paid administrative leave Friday morning by City Administrator Bob Francis, and will meet again with Francis May 27 to discuss his future with the department.
"I can't really go into details because it's a personnel matter," Francis said when contacted Friday morning.
While Ludwig is on leave, Sgt. Neal Holste will serve as the acting chief.
"They need to know they are in capable hands with Sgt. Holste until a decision has been made," Francis said of the city's police force.
When asked to respond to a report on Stu Watson's Hood River Biz Buzz Blog that he was out as police chief, Ludwig said he was still the police chief, had not been asked to resign, and referred further questions to Francis regarding his future with the department.
When contacted again later, Ludwig said the only reason he was given for his leave was that "management goals and philosophies" differed between himself, Francis and Mayor Arthur Babitz.
Ludwig said he was surprised by the decision but had hints something was coming.
"Over the past few months Bob (Francis) has said the mayor wanted him to fire me," Ludwig said.
Hood River mayor Arthur Babitz said the decision to place Ludwig on leave was ultimately up to Francis.
"No. This is Bob's (Francis) decision," Babitz said Friday at noon when asked about Ludwig's claim that Babitz had advocated for Ludwig's departure. "I leave it to Bob to make decisions on his management and who he can and cannot work with. I don't tell Bob he should work with this person or not work with that person. It is up to Bob to make decisions about his management team."
Ludwig said he wants to remain the head of the department and will be considering how to do that over the next two weeks until he meets with Francis again.
"I am consulting with an attorney and weighing my options," he said. "I feel I have a lot of skills to offer this community and it's going to be the community that will suffer through this."
Francis said the decision had nothing to do with talks between the department and Hood River County Sherriff's department over merging some operations.
"Those are two totally separate things," Francis said.
Francis will be on vacation for the next week, but said that when he and Ludwig meet again, the chief will have an opportunity to present his case for remaining with the department.
"It just something where we have to sit down and talk and see what's best for the city," he said.
Ludwig, 60, was hired in 2005. He came to Hood River from Redmond, where he was the administrative captain for the police department there. Ludwig was chosen from a field of 25 candidates and hired at a $70,000 annual salary.
Ludwig took over June 1, 2005, from interim chief Matt Fine, who came out of retirement after Kevin Lynch resigned in December 2004.
In announcing the hire in a May 7, 2005, story in the Hood River News, Francis said: "He's very community-oriented and that is one of the strengths that really attracted us to him. Mr. Ludwig has a really good presence and I think he's going to give us the type of leadership that we need in the department."
With Joe Petshow and Kirby Neumann-Rea
Details of this story were first reported in the Hood River Biz Buzz blog: