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Costa Mesa Interim Police Chief Resigns With Angry Memo

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COSTA MESA (AP) — Costa Mesa’s interim police chief has resigned over the city’s plan to reduce police staffing levels.

Chief Steve Staveley sent a four-page memo Monday announcing his resignation and calling the Costa Mesa City Council’s plan “foolhardy.”

Staveley accuses a majority of the City Council of meddling with officers scheduling and creating a budget crisis to serve their own political goals.

In March, the council ordered pink slips for about half of city employees to cut pension costs. Staveley says he was asked to cut the number of police officers from 139 to 131.

“What they are doing is not fiscal conservatism, it is destruction of an institution,” Staveley said. “It takes five years and millions of dollars to train that many police officers.

That’s not fiscally responsible. It’s just stupid.”

He said council members have lied about budget gaps to create the appearance of a fiscal crisis “in order to appear as the white knight to a narrow band of political followers.”

“I think the letter is probably the most unprofessional thing I’ve seen in 30 years of business,” City Councilman Jim Righeimer said. “His reaction to the council asking for a 3 1/2 percent budget cut and a request that non-sworn staff work five days a week, 8-hour days, his reaction to that is bizarre.”

In a statement, Costa Mesa Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch said he is “shocked and saddened by the unprofessional letter.”

He said he has hired former La Habra Police Chief Dennis Kies as interim chief and expects to hire a permanent chief within the next couple of weeks.

City Councilwoman Wendy Leece said she hopes the resignation will give her colleagues pause.

“The majority is trying to accomplish pension reform in a broad manner, rather than take it one step at a time as other cities are doing. These cuts aren’t necessary and it’s causing a lot of division in our city,” she said. “We have to do it in a planned, measured, well-thought out way, and involve the residents.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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