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Police Chief, City Negotiating New Contract

Old deal expires June 18

After deciding that his existing employment contract will not be renewed, the city of White Salmon and Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending are negotiating a new deal.

Brending's current contract, a three-year deal, expires on June 18.

During the White Salmon City Council's regular session on April 7, the council went into a private session to discuss the police chief and his contract.

After returning from the executive session, council member Mark Peppel read a short statement.

"I move we direct the staff to send the police chief a letter that we do not intend to renew the current contract," Peppel said. "Just so everybody is clear. We are required to give notice that we are not going to automatically renew the contract."

"This does not preclude entering into a new contract with Chief Brending," Woodrich added.

However, there is no certainty the two sides will be able to reach an agreement.

Verna Haney, local citizen who attended the council meeting, said she wanted to make sure that ending the existing contract did not mean Brending would be ousted as police chief.

"The current contract will not be renewed. We will enter into negotiations for a new employment contract," responded White Salmon Mayor David Poucher. "The letter will just say that the city is not going to roll over your existing contract, but we wish to enter into a new employment contract with you."

Brending, who was in attendance at the council meeting, said he would "look forward to seeing what the city wants to offer for employment."

Negotiations for a new police chief contract will be handled by the city's human resources committee. That committee is chaired by council member Bob Landgren.

Brending recently submitted a proposal in which he asked for a five-year contract. He volunteered to have no pay increases over the five-year term, except in cost of living.

Among other key points of his proposal:

Brending would give up his Civil Service status;

His salary would remain at the same level as in the current contract -- $77,950 per year;

There would be no additional step pay increases over the life of the contract;

There would be annual cost of living adjustments;

He would be entitled to six weeks of vacation per year;

The contract would have a one-year severance buy out in the event of removal as police chief; and

Should the city and Brending fail to come to an agreement on a contract, the chief would continue to serve at the will of the mayor. He would retain his Civil Service status, and if he were removed as chief he would resume his previous position as sergeant. Should the City Council decide to lower the chief's wages by ordinance, Brending would have the option to either accept the lower pay or instead serve as sergeant.

Landgren said Brending's ideas would be reviewed by his committee.

"Bruce has made a proposal, and we'll get together and look at his proposal," Landgren said. "That's as far as it's gone so far. We'll talk about it and get together with Bruce later and discuss it, and then later take it to the full council."

Landgren added that the decision not to renew the existing contract was based on advice from the city's attorney, Ken Woodrich.

"The attorney advised us on that as to why not to renew the old one," Landgren said. "There were some concerns."

Woodrich explained that the existing police chief's contract was "self-renewing." That meant there could be no revisions, and he believed some revisions were necessary.

"To revisit the terms of the contract, we have to go the route of non-renewal," Woodrich said. "That allows all parties to re-examine the terms of the contract. There were some terms that do not apply to the current situation -- re, litigation with (former police chief) Rich Cortese. I wanted to give the council the opportunity to get the best deal they can for the city."

Brending said he was not surprised the city did not want to simply renew the current deal.

"It's not unexpected," Brending said. "I hope they provide their best offer and we can reach a compromise where I can continue to serve as chief. I'd like to continue, but if it's their intention to drastically alter the contract, I will review the options I have available to me."

Brending has served as police chief since June 2007, and has worked for the local Police Department since January 1987.

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