The fallout from last month's removal of the Atwater police chief continued this week with some residents defending Samuel Joseph, while others, including the police union president, said the department lacked leadership under Joseph.
About two weeks into his temporary contract on Jan. 22, Atwater's interim City Manager Art de Werk removed Joseph from the top position in the Atwater Police Department. Monday's council meeting was the first public meeting since Joseph's removal was made public.
The day after he was removed, the Atwater Police Officers Association met and passed a vote of no-confidence in Joseph. The union of about 30 employees cited a “lack of leadership” and “feeling of overall distrust” fostered by Joseph as reasons for the vote, according to the statement released on Jan. 23. Two-thirds of the members were at the meeting and approximately 85 percent supported the vote of no confidence, the statement said.
Resident Larry Lee, who spoke publicly at Monday's meeting, said all of Atwater's successful police chiefs had the support of the city manager and an assistant chief, neither of which Joseph had before being put on leave. He said Joseph wasn't being treated fairly.
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"It's really amazing to me that a man can be on the job eight days, working days, and fire the chief," he said.
Joseph remains on paid administrative leave.
Lee went on to read crime statistics that have dropped in 2017 compared to 2013. Joseph has been chief since November 2016.
Dan Hernandez, a resident who ran for a council seat in 2016, said de Werk should be fired immediately. Joseph was doing a "hell of job" in a city that's dealing with financial problems, according to Hernandez.
"This is a whole lot of baloney, if I can say it that way without being more rude," he said to the council. "I move that you people have to remove this man (de Werk)."
But, not all of those who spoke were in support of Joseph.
Police union President Dave Sarginson, a sergeant, read the union's statement from Jan. 23. The union also said it's in "full support" of de Werk and the current direction of the Atwater City Council, he said.
"Please believe in what the officers are trying to do," he said. "This isn't some conspiracy. This is something that was coming."
De Werk has said he can't comment on Joseph's removal because it's a personnel issue, which he said again on Monday.