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Prineville to launch nationwide search for new police chief, as fired manager’s lawsuit against city takes odd twist

Consultant, former Oregon City police chief Jim Band is helping Prineville Police Department in transition, hiring new police chief
Band Investigations; Brent Bunch
Consultant, former Oregon City police chief Jim Band is helping Prineville Police Department in transition, hiring new police chief

City, ex-chief filed $100K settlement offer; now they want it stricken, say filing was 'clerical error'

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – The city of Prineville has chosen a third-party firm to help conduct a nationwide search for a new police chief in the wake of Larry Seymour’s recent resignation, consultant Jim Band said Friday – while a $1.5 million lawsuit against the city and Seymour by a fired employee took an unusual twist.

The city is in the process of signing an agreement with the search firm vendor, Band told NewsChannel 21, declining to release their name until the agreement is completed.

“Our plan is to have a kickoff meeting next week and begin the search within a month,” explained Band, a veteran of the law enforcement field who spent 10 years as Oregon City’s police chief and now works as a consultant and helps police organizations make successful transitions.

“The search firm will spend some time with city staff and in the community, learning about the opportunity, and how to best market both inside and outside of Oregon for a list of candidates,” Band said.

“Our goal is to find someone committed to maintaining Prineville’s core values while adeptly navigating inevitable community changes,” Band said. The process will include various stakeholder panels and an open house with final candidates, with the date to be determined later, he said.

“Our goal is to have a new chief hired by the end of the summer,” Band said.

Seymour and police Captain Rob Gray recently resigned under a negotiated settlement, six months after being placed on paid, non-disciplinary leave pending an investigation. Lieutenant Shane Wilson is acting as the officer in charge on an interim basis.

Nikki Hepworth, a recently fired administrative services manager for the department, filed a $1.5 million lawsuit last month against the city and Seymour, claiming she was forced out for reporting illegal discrimination against and harassment of an officer.

A week ago, court records show, attorneys representing the city and former police chief filed in court a $100,001 offer to Hepworth, in an effort to settle the lawsuit, giving her one week to decide whether to accept it.

"Nothing in this offer should be construed as an admission that any defendant is liable in this action," the judgment offer stated. "The offer is made in order to conclude this lawsuit and any and all claims as indicated above."

However, the city's and Seymour's attorneys filed a new motion Friday to "strike or seal prior filing," the claiming the judgment offer "was a filing made in error/was an inadvertent filing by clerical staff," later saying it was "filed due to a clerical error arising from oversight."

The defendants requested an order striking the filing from the court's docket, or "in the alternative … to seal the document from all."

There was no indication in the court file of a decision regarding the motion. NewsChannel 21 reached out to a city representative and attorneys on both sides of the lawsuit for any comment on the settlement offer or motion to strike or seal it.

Band recently told the Central Oregonian that the circumstances surrounding Seymour's and Gray's departure will, of course, be a factor in hiring a new chief, making for "a little bit more of a challenge."

But he told NewsChannel 21, “The city is fortunate to have exceptional leaders who have diligently ensured that the day-to-day operations of the police department remain unaffected.”

“If you call 911, Prineville police are going to show up and help you out,” Band promised. “One of the roles I have been providing as a consultant is being a resource to the team at Prineville, to make sure they have everything needed to keep the public safety operation moving without interruption.”

Article Topic Follows: Prineville

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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