WAPATO — Wapato’s mayor fired Police Chief Dominic Rizzi without cause Friday.
Rizzi confirmed the dismissal, saying that Mayor Dora Alvarez-Roa called him to Wapato City Hall around 4 p.m. Friday, told him he had done a great job for the city, but it was his last day.
Rizzi said Alvarez-Roa did not give him a reason for his termination.
“She told me my services were no longer needed,” he said.
Alvarez-Roa declined to comment about the situation before Wapato’s monthly council meeting Wednesday. She did not include Rizzi’s termination as part of her mayor’s report. But when asked by an audience member why she had terminated Rizzi, she denied that the city’s former administrator, Juan Orozco, had asked her to do so. She said she terminated Rizzi because he was not out in the community enough.
“We want a chief that is out and about, visible, and that was not happening,” she said.
Councilman Keith Workman immediately said that he had seen Rizzi on active patrol in the city, a statement that met with shouts of approval from the sizable audience.
Six months with the city
In February, he was named Wapato’s public safety director, overseeing both the police and fire departments.
Orozco, who resigned in July after he was named in a civil lawsuit by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said Rizzi was paid about $80,000 a year.
Rizzi pointed to a number of accomplishments during his six months as Wapato police chief, including a complete study of the police department, the initiation of an asset management system, and an agreement with Sunnyside to house jail inmates.
Rizzi said he is “absolutely fine” and thanked the people of Wapato for their support.
“I really enjoyed my time in Wapato,” he said. “Everyone was nice, friendly, and I could tell they wanted a change and wanted to support the police department.”
A new appointment
Alvarez-Roa confirmed at Wednesday’s council meeting that she had appointed Mike Campos as acting police chief.
Campos, who served as chief of police for nine months in 2008, said he was excited and ready.
“This is not new to me,” Campos said. “I enjoy the people here. We’re going to be looking to hire more officers, to get staffing levels back up.”
Campos has made the news in the past. In February 2017, he filed a $1.5 million claim against the city for “divisive and inflammatory” comments that then-mayor Tony Guzman posted on social media about him in the aftermath of a July officer-involved fatal shooting. The case was settled in December 2018.
Campos also was named in a lawsuit filed by the Teamsters Union Local 760 in August 2018, which alleged that he — then acting as public safety director — along with then-mayor Orozco retaliated against Wapato police officers after they voted not to renew Campos in his position. That lawsuit was settled earlier this year.