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Mayor directs board to find new police chief

Former chief fails to commit to offer

Mayor Francis Gaddis and members of the White Salmon City Council went into executive session last week to discuss the police chief's position. The question was whether to give former Police Chief Rich Cortese more time to decide if he would accept the city's offer of reinstatement as chief of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.

No decision was reached during the Oct. 18 session.

"There was no action taken," said City Council member Brad Roberts. "Nothing was provided [from Rich Cortese's attorney] until right before the meeting, and the city attorney didn't have time to analyze it."

On Monday, Mayor Gaddis directed the Civil Service Commission "to select three qualified names to possibly serve as police chief."

Gaddis said the objective was to get a police chief in place "as soon as possible."

Sgt. Bruce Brending has been serving as interim police chief since January.

According to Gaddis, it will be up to the White Salmon City Council to make a formal decision about Cortese's status with the city. However, Gaddis added that he did not believe the door should be held open for Cortese any longer.

"I can't answer for what the council will decide," Gaddis said. "But as far as I'm concerned right now, he didn't meet his deadline."

Cortese, who was fired as chief by former Mayor Roger Holen, was given a 60-day period by the city of White Salmon in August to accept an offer of reinstatement to the position. The offer came as the city sought to end a lawsuit brought by Cortese in the aftermath of his termination.

The 60-day deadline was up on Oct. 16.

Deborah Phillips, attorney for the city of White Salmon, said she could not comment on the information in the confidential letter from Cortese's attorney, William Eling.

However, she said no decision had yet been reached between the city and Cortese.

"The city continues to work to seek the most economical and fair resolution possible," Phillips said.

If the two parties cannot reach a mutually-acceptable arrangement, Cortese's lawsuit against the city could continue to go forward. A court hearing in the case is tentatively set for December.

"There are a lot of legal interpretations as to what is the right course of action, or even a legal one," said Roberts. "It's pretty complicated. I suspect it's an ongoing issue. We'll be trying to decide about the interim chief situation as well as the long-range."

Eling could not be reached for comment as of press time on Tuesday.


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