Former Selah Police Chief Rick Hayes said he left the department because he was tired of being micromanaged by City Administrator Don Wayman.
Hayes made the statement in a letter to Mayor Sherry Raymond. He described the letter as his exit interview.
The Yakima Herald-Republic obtained a copy of the letter this week. Hayes couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Hayes had worked for the department since 1993 and served as chief the past eight years.
In the letter, Hayes accused Wayman and Raymond of misinforming the public about the reason for his early retirement and why officer Nick Singletary also left the department.
They told the public that he had been planning to retire and that Singletary was taking a teaching job, Hayes wrote.
But Hayes said he told the mayor July 31 he was leaving early because of Wayman.
“So instead of telling people the real reason we were leaving, the city started telling people that it was something that I had been thinking about doing and that it was not a surprise and that Officer Singletary was looking to go into teaching. While I agree that Officer Singletary was talking of teaching, he also said that the straw that pushed him towards that goal was city policies being pushed by you and Mr. Wayman,” Hayes said in the letter.
Wayman on Thursday denied micromanaging Hayes.
“It simply isn’t true,” he said.
Raymond guessed Hayes’ early departure had more to do with how she wanted him to respond to residents who wrote in the street in chalk during a Black Lives Matter assembly in July.
The incident sparked controversy. City officials ordered public works staff to clean the chalk from the street and warned residents they could be punished for violating the city’s graffiti ordinance.
Raymond said she wanted him to identify and document who wrote in the street, but he wouldn’t do it.
“He was directed to do that task,” she said. “Apparently his personal feeling on the task were different than mine.”
Raymond said Wayman was merely passing along her directive in the chalk matter.
“Don’s was a direct order from myself,” she said. “We needed a paper trail of who was writing in the street. They can do it on the sidewalk but it’s a safety issue in the street.”
Hayes said in his letter that he had previously informed Raymond about being micromanaged by Wayman and that she agreed to look into it.
Raymond said there was much more to the story but wouldn’t elaborate.
“It’s not just one thing here, it’s the months of COVID and then the BLM movement that came in,” she said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of different things.
“There’s always more to a story and I won’t go into that. I’ll tell you that he was a great chief out here. I’m sad to see him go the way that he went.”
Hayes in his letter accused Wayman was using the police department to promote his political views.
“I told you that he micro-manages to the point I no longer felt like I was an effective leader within the police department and that I felt he was using the police department as a tool in this conflict over chalk art being done by persons aligning themselves with a support group of black lives matter,” Hayes said in the letter.
Hayes also took issue with Wayman discussing personnel matters with an officer and the city’s efforts to fill his vacancy from outside the department. He even asserted the city had plans to hire former Yakima and Wapato chief Dominic Rizzi.
The city recently selected Dan Christman, a program manager for the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, as its new police chief.
“He was very unhappy about our efforts to go outside the police department,” Wayman said. “We wanted to put it out to a competitive situation. we had a very qualified board to consider candidates and I think we got a good one.”
Pointing to the chalk incident, Wayman said Hayes didn’t want to enforce the law.
“That’s the best thing that could of happened to the city, is for him to retire,” Wayman said.