Archive for Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Butell resigns as Baldwin police chief

July 24, 2002

Steve Butell resigned as Baldwin City Police Chief Friday. City officials declined to comment on the reason for the resignation and attempts to contact Butell were unsuccessful.

The surprise announcement ended a 13-month stretch of questions surrounding Butell's handling of the seven-person department. The string of events that ultimately led to Butell stepping down from the post started in late June of 2001 when two officers aired complaints about a fellow officer to city officials. That officer resigned days later.

But, the matter resulted in an investigation into the department's policies and procedures. Eventually several officers were suspended, including Butell. Butell's suspension was the longest at four days. The other officers have since filed complaints which could lead to lawsuits seeking more than $1 million. Butell did not file a complaint.

However, Butell's resignation apparently was not related to that turmoil.

"Steve Butell resigned Friday for the betterment of the department and the community," said City Administrator Larry Paine. "I believe that he just felt it was the appropriate time to leave the organization.

"I don't know what was in Steve's mind when he resigned, but I doubt it (had anything to do with the previous turmoil)," Paine said. "It was Steve's preference that the reason for his resignation not be discussed."

Butell has maintained a "no comment" stance throughout his tenure. That has been especially true during the events over the last 13 months.

City Councilman George McCrary also said the resignation had nothing to do with any political pressure.

"It was an internal administrative matter," McCrary said. "It is not a council matter. This is not about politics. This is about personnel. Everything I know about personnel falls under the city administrator. That's what he's paid to do. Do I support it? Yes.

"This has been an administrative matter from the get-go. As much as the council would like to be involved, it has not been involved with it," he said. "We updated our procedures this winter to give Larry control over such matters. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city."

Sgt. Colleen Larson is now acting as chief of police. How long that will last is unknown. An emergency executive session for the council has been tentatively set for this morning.

"I am putting together for the council a recruitment plan to replace the chief," said Paine. "At least for the foreseeable future, Sgt. Larson will be acting as chief."

Neither Sgt. Larson nor other members of the police department would comment on the resignation.

Paine said Butell's departure will not affect the department's presence on the streets of Baldwin.

"As far as police coverage is concerned, it's unaffected," he said. "We haven't lost anyone who worked the street. It was purely administrative. The coverage is still there. We won't have any difficulty."

He also said he hasn't seen any change in the morale of the department.

"It's too soon to tell," said Paine. "I haven't talked to anybody except Larson."

Other city officials said they understand Butell's reasons for resigning, but declined to comment on them.

"I support his decision for resigning for the betterment of the community," said Mayor Ken Hayes.

"He made the decision," said McCrary.

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