Chief MacKinnon: City data sheet infers allegations disputed by supporter
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: May 04, 2012
A data spread sheet obtained through a public records request infers that allegations against Police Chief Steve MacKinnon include charges to a city issued gasoline credit card and time sheets not agreeing with actual hours worked.
When he learned of the data spread sheet, Gary Nasalroad, co-chair of Citizens Supporting Chief MacKinnon, said it was what he expected, as "The release of this information just reinforces our belief that the allegations presented against our chief don't rise to the level of their actions" against him.
In a prior interview and opinion piece written by former Mayor Mary Ann Krause, she noted a private investigator hired by the city questioned her regarding the chief's personal use of a city vehicle. The investigation of MacKinnon, who joined the Santa Paula Police Department in November 2005 after a nationwide search, was reportedly launched in January.
The data spread sheet was obtained by the media through a formal request for public information on April 24.
Since MacKinnon was placed on leave April 17 Jaime Fontes, the city manager, has stated he cannot discuss the matter as it is a confidential personnel issue governed by law. Members of the council denied they know anything about what prompted Fontes' action or what led up to the investigation and MacKinnon's being placed on paid leave, even after the data spread sheet had been released to the media.
The data sheet covers a 20-month period from April 2010 to December 2011, and reflects about 28 round trips to MacKinnon's Arizona home. Gasoline charges are totaled at about $2,800 for the trips, made in city unmarked Crown Victorias. During the same 20-month period there are about 112 hours cited that are accompanied with notations MacKinnon was not at work at times he claimed to be so.
MacKinnon's October 2005 offer of employment letter - he has no formal contract - states a city vehicle will be provided "for your city use as well as use in the performance of your duties." MacKinnon did not receive the $350 monthly car allowance accorded other department heads. He is a salaried employee whose offer of employment letter does not specify work hours.
Citizens Supporting Chief MacKinnon - co-chaired by Realtor Anita Pulido - formed within a week of MacKinnon being placed on leave, just days after the Santa Paula Police Officers Association issued a statement supporting the chief and offering assurances to citizens that policing remained their top priority.
"I said all along punishment handed out here was not commiserate with the allegations," said Nasalroad, "and the existence of this information - apparently released to the media almost two weeks ago - reinforces our belief that the council had more knowledge of this issue from what we were led to believe."
Nasalroad said it would have been far more costly to the city if the chief had received the $350 the month stipend given to other department heads during the 20-month period cited. "That car allowance the chief did not receive would have amounted to $7,000" instead of the $2,000 in gas charges. "And he was using 10 to 12 year-old beat-up Crown Vics."
Another issue, Nasalroad added, is "Who signed off on these credit card charges? Seems that somewhere along the line the individual who signed off on this would have signaled" if such credit card charges were "a perceived problem."
The time sheet data, "is ludicrous.... Everybody in town knows how much time the chief put in, it's one of the reasons he is so respected."
A retired public utility executive, Nasalroad said, "With almost every administrative job," work hours are far longer than an average workweek. Santa Paula department heads receive 90 hours a year administrative leave to make up for time spent at evening meetings and other work requirements.
"Chief MacKinnon is a workaholic, everyone knows that... and he can't put down all the overtime, off-the clock hours not reported he consistently gives to his department.... Again," said Nasalroad, "who signed off on this?" Based on MacKinnon's annual salary, the 112 hours noted in the data sheet could range from approximately $6,000 to $8,000 depending on whether or not his benefits package is factored in.
The monetary amount of credit card charges and estimated time sheet costs were dismissed by Nasalroad who asked, "Just how much has this three or four month long investigation cost taxpayers? And, if someone thought there was a problem, why didn't they discuss it with the chief, change policy, whatever?"
Overall, Nasalroad said the information released to the media "will upset people even more that this seems to be the basis of the allegations. The issue has been hidden from the public... this goes to show what many of us feel - these allegations are not proportional to the punishment that was handed out. This information is actually proving how petty this action has been... and appearing more and more as a witch hunt against MacKinnon, as has been characterized by some."
MacKinnon graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He also has a master's degree in Public Administration and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Before coming to Santa Paula, MacKinnon was police chief of three other agencies and also served on the United Nations' International Policing Task Force to create police agencies in Haiti and Kosovo.