Lebanon officials mum on why the former police chief, Ben Silverman, is resigning after just six months
LEBANON — Former Police Chief Ben Silverman began “mutually agreed leave” on Dec. 7, 2013 according to City Manager John Hitt.
But the city will not provide information as to why the veteran police officer resigned so soon after an extensive nationwide search that culminated with his promotion from interim police chief — a position he held for about a month — in July 2012.
Silverman had been with the department for 17 years and had also served for a short time with the Sweet Home Police Department.
“The city did not at the time nor would it now characterize that leave as ‘administrative’,” Hitt said by email. “The main reason is the negative connotations that are often associated with the term ‘administrative leave’, which would be inaccurate in this situation.”
The term had been used in a story earlier in the week, during an interview with new Mayor Paul Aziz.
Hitt said the reason for Silverman’s leave and resignation are not subject to public records requests or public dissemination.
“The city requests that the media respect Mr. Silverman’s right to privacy in this matter.” Hitt said, calling Silverman, “an ethical man of fine character.”
The city does not plan to initiate recruitment to fill the chief’s position at this time, Hitt said. The city council will assess the situation in the summer and determine then if it will proceed with a search.
Former Capt. Frank Stevenson has been named Acting in Charge Chief of Police.
Stevenson had been promoted from sergeant to captain in November, as part of the department’s plan to fill empty positions and to increase overall staffing.
Greg Burroughs was also appointed Acting in Charge captain. He had been named Acting in Charge lieutenant in November, along with Scott Bressler.
Stevenson has served with the department for more than 15 years and took over supervision of the detective division in 2011, succeeding Sgt. Kevin Martinez, who is now Chief of Police in Carlton.
Stevenson started in law enforcement as a reserve with the Monmouth Police Department before coming to Lebanon.
“I know, to many people it was a surprise about our chief resigning from the police department. I completely understand why people would question this and worry about our police department given the issues the city has had in the past with this position,” Mayor Paul Aziz said in an email to the Democrat-Herald that was also posted on his website. “One of the hardest things about my new job is that I am bound by law to not discuss confidential personnel issues. It is very frustrating because sometimes it could be a simple explanation that anyone could understand and probably agree with.”
Aziz said he and councilors Jason Bolen and Bob Elliott met with Stevenson and others at the police department earlier in the week.
“From this meeting I got a real sense that Chief Stevenson and his staff have an excellent handle on the running of the department and that they, the officers and staff, have a renewed sense of direction,” Aziz said. “We have new officers on the way to fill vacancies and the supervisory positions are now filled with AIC personnel, and there will be a review of their work around summer time.”
The Democrat-Herald on Friday asked Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny to consider an Oregon Public Records Law request concerning Police Chief Silverman’s resignation.
The newspaper and its sister publication, the Lebanon Express, posed several questions to city staff after learning of the resignation on Monday. Other than learning that Silverman had taken personal leave starting Dec. 7, 2012, City Manager John Hitt said no more information would be released.
The newspapers are seeking the following information:
— All emails or other written correspondence between Chief Silverman, Assistant City Manager/HR Director Ginger Allen, City Manager John Hitt and city council members from June 1, 2012 through Feb. 1, 2013.
— Chief Silverman’s personnel files pertaining to work-related activities including performance reviews, complaints by employees, city councilors, community members or city administration.
Communications advising Chief Silverman of either performance successes or need for improvement during his tenure as chief. (Not including Social Security number, nor items relating to his marital status or health records.)
— Information that might support or refute whether Chief Silverman resigned or had his job terminated.