Paso Robles starts search for new police chief — again

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJanuary 10, 2013 

Manuel “Manny” Guaderrama

COURTESY PHOTO

Paso Robles officials have re-launched their national search for a new police chief after their top pick unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy, leaving many people wondering what happened.

San Diego police Capt. Manny Guaderrama was mostly vague in his reasoning, citing personal and financial reasons, including not wanting his wife, Cari, to close her skin-care business.

He phoned the city’s recruiting firm on the weekend before New Year’s to bow out and reportedly hasn’t followed up with city leaders, nor have they called him.

“If we are not the place he wants to be, then we need to find someone who wants to be here,” Councilman Steve Martin said.

Guaderrama didn’t return calls for comment from The Tribune.

His cancellation halted his background check —the last leg of his expected hiring — and stunned an already-rattled community that’s been searching for a new chief since former Chief Lisa Solomon resigned amid sexual harassment and ticket-quota allegations in April.

"We were shocked,” said Detective Michael Rickerd, vice president of the Paso Robles Police Officers Association.

Rickerd said the department was looking forward to a new leader with fresh ideas. When all that came to a sudden halt, it was a blow.

“It was more of the hope and excitement of new (things) to come … and then it was gone. So, we’re back to square one,” Rickerd said.

City leaders aren’t sure what happened.

“We really don’t think it was money. We had made it quite clear what the salary range was,” said former Councilman Nick Gilman, who helped interview finalists before his term expired in December.

Further, City Manager Jim App said a salary offer had already been made. He declined to disclose the specifics or whether Guaderrama had accepted the offer. The position pays up to $160,020 per year, excluding benefits.

Gilman said some people have asked whether the background check played a part, but he doesn’t know.

App said nothing was ever disclosed — to him or anyone else — from the check because it was half-complete when Guaderrama withdrew.

The city paid former San Luis Obispo police chief Jim Gardiner about $3,000 to conduct the background check before the process was terminated.

Interviewers, including police, vetted one issue early in the search regarding battery allegations against Guaderrama’s 23-year-old son and related accusations that the son had received special treatment in the August incident.

Meanwhile, the city won’t pursue runner-up Capt. Mike Reid from the Fresno Police Department.

While Reid’s qualifications were apparently good, several city leaders said he didn’t offer natural charisma and wasn’t the best fit in leadership. Reid “just didn’t have that spark that the city needed,” Gilman said.

Given a second chance, interim police chief Capt. Robert Burton, who has led the department since the spring, is thinking about applying for the chief position.

The move was something he only briefly considered last year because, he said, he didn’t want to stand in the way of finding a new face for the department while the Solomon controversy was still fresh.

William Avery & Associates Inc. in Los Gatos, the search firm hired by the city to conduct the initial search, will run the renewed search for no additional fee, according to its original agreement with the city. Applications will be accepted through March 1.

Last year, 61 applications were received, with about 20 promising candidates.

The new application process will be similar to the first — the search firm will screen the résumés to find the most promising candidates.

Once six to eight candidates are identified, they could go before three interview panels.

It will be up to the City Council to determine whether to use the interview panels again, App said, as well as whether the same panelists will participate.

The council lauded the panels’ participation in the last round. They were made up of police leaders, citizens, Police Officers’ Association members and city management.

The final two contenders would then interview with the City Council before interviewing with App, who has final say.

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