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Cortese Wants More Time For Chief Decision

Offered police chief job

Former Police Chief Rich Cortese has requested more time to decide whether he will accept the city of White Salmon's offer to reinstate him as chief of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.

With the 60-day deadline to make a decision ending on Oct. 16, Cortese advised his lawyer, William J. Eling of Vancouver, to ask for an extension.

In an Oct. 16 letter from Eling to Deborah Phillips, attorney for the city of White Salmon, Eling explained the reasons behind Cortese's request.

Eling wrote that Cortese had not yet made a decision regarding the city's offer of reinstatement. The letter indicated that Cortese was hesitating due to a "lack of specific contractual protection" if he were to take the police chief job back and, for whatever reason, his relationship with the mayor, City Council, or Police Department did not work out.

Eling appealed for the city to grant Cortese "additional assurance" that he would not be in the same position -- i.e., dismissed from his job as police chief -- within the next six months. The letter closed with a request that the reinstatement offer be indefinitely extended to provide an opportunity to discuss how to provide these additional assurances.

Cortese, who served as police chief for about 18 months, was terminated by then-Mayor Roger Holen in April. At the time of his dismissal, Holen said the termination had nothing to do with Cortese's performance as chief.

Soon after his last day on the Police Department payroll, April 15, Cortese filed a lawsuit against the city of White Salmon.

On Aug. 16, in a bid to end the lawsuit, the City Council voted 4-0 to offer to reinstate Cortese to his job as police chief.

Phillips said the White Salmon City Council would have to decide whether to grant an extension to Cortese, and she anticipated that council members would discuss the matter during its regular Oct. 18 meeting.

"The council will have to consider his proposal," Phillips said. "It will be discussed in executive session under pending litigation."

On Tuesday, White Salmon Mayor Francis Gaddis said he was surprised Cortese was requesting more time beyond the 60-day window to make a decision.

"I really was. I thought the time we gave him was adequate," Gaddis said. "He's had long enough. He needs to decide right now. We've been very lenient with the time."

Gaddis added that he expected a decision to be made during this week's City Council meeting.

"I hope we'll have a decision after Wednesday," Gaddis said.

According to Phillips, Eling was working on a "comprehensive proposal" to submit to the city on Cortese's behalf regarding the reinstatement offer. That proposal was expected to be submitted on Oct. 17.

As of press time on Tuesday afternoon, neither Eling or Cortese had returned telephone calls seeking comment.

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