PROSSER, Wash. — Of the three Yakima Valley cities looking for new police chiefs, only one is close to filling the position.
Prosser is nearing the end of its search, negotiating with a favorite candidate. Sunnyside, meanwhile, is right in the middle of a search. And Union Gap — where voters recently approved a change to a council-manager government — will hire its first city manager before a chief.
In Prosser, Mayor Paul Warden has offered the job and an $88,000 per year salary to Steve MacKinnon from Avondale, Ariz., pending a background check by the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs.
MacKinnon has until Thursday to say yes or no, Warden said.
MacKinnon most recently worked for Santa Paula, Calif., where he was fired last June after the city manager accused him of racking up mileage on a city vehicle for personal trips to visit family in Arizona, according to the Ventura County Star. MacKinnon’s attorney countered that the chief paid for the gas personally.
Prosser’s two postings netted 26 applicants. Warden was ready to make offers to a couple of them from the first round but scratched them after a little more background checking and a “gut feeling.” So he reopened the search.
He passed over an internal applicant, Sgt. Ed Blackburn. The department’s interim chief, Sgt. John Markus, did not apply.
In Sunnyside, interim City Manager Frank Sweet was slow at the trigger because of a busy budget season in the fall, when one of his two favorite candidates took a job in Florida, he said.
He still likes the other candidate, whom he would not name. But he reopened the search until Jan. 31 just to find more variety, he said. Sweet would prefer to bring two candidates to the city for interviews.
A total of 10 candidates have applied so far but many of them don’t meet the minimum requirements, Sweet said.
He hopes to have the permanent chief’s position filled by April 1.
But because he can’t rely on that happening, Sweet plans to hire an interim chief, also with the help of the state association. He hopes to have somebody in place by the end of January.
Phil Schenck, the city’s deputy chief and a 23-year veteran of the department, has been steering the ship since Ed Radder retired in March. Schenck has not applied for Sunnyside’s permanent post but has been searching for chief’s positions elsewhere.
Sweet insisted his reasoning for wanting an interim chief had nothing to do with Schenck’s performance.
However, when pressed for an answer on why he wants an interim chief, Sweet said, “I’m just not satisfied with what we’re doing right now.”