No wrongdoing found in Hoonah mayor police hire, formal training recommended

    Hoonah City Hall

    Hoonah, Alaska (KINY) - Documents from a Hoonah City Council meeting on May 10 reportedly show that City Attorney James Sheehan found no wrongdoing on the part of Hoonah Mayor Gerald Byers in the hiring and subsequent dismissal of a police officer.

    The May 10 memo, which was obtained by News of the North, alleges an investigation of a personnel matter regarding former Kake VPSO and Yakutat police officer Charley McAnally and his application to work for the Hoonah Department of Public Safety.

    According to the memo, McAnally was initially offered the position of lieutenant with Hoonah DPS on March 10 by Mayor Byers. The memo from Sheehan also states that Byers offered the position in violation of city code, which requires that all job offers for police positions come through the office of Hoonah Police Chief Eric Hurtado.

    The code states that the police chief, "shall appoint all officers, whether regular or reserve, subject to the confirmation of the mayor."

    News of the North obtained a March 10 letter on city letterhead where Byers appears to offer a position to McAnally, to include a $20,000 signing bonus, contingent on McAnally meeting all the qualifying conditions of the Alaska Police Standards Council, passing a physical and drug test, and being fingerprinted. The offer was signed by McAnally on March 21, with Byers signing it the following day.

    A series of text messages purportedly between the mayor and McAnally, which the memo states were written between March 22 and 25, discussed an offer of employment -- and the possibility that McAnally would replace Hurtado as chief.

    McAnally: "My wife and I have talked and it did not take long to decide that yes I would be willing to take the chiefs (sic) spot immediately."

    Mayor Byers: "So we'll need to keep the contract as is till we take action on the removal of chiefs (sic). Once we do that then put you in as acting chief with more pay."

    The text messages went on, with Mayor Byers writing, " ... You'll get approved it (sic) all legal formalities I know you (sic) be approved the council members that interviewed u been asking about u."

    The memo continues that on March 31, the mayor rescinded the offer to McAnally, saying he did not qualify for the position of police officer, and because Byers did not have statutory authority to hire him without consulting Hurtado.

    "Mayor Byers offer of employment is also void because Mayors Byers did not have the authority to employ officers without consulting with the Chief of Police," Sheehan wrote.

    On April 10, Sheehan informed McAnally that the offer of employment was rescinded and that no actual agreement between him and the city existed. On April 12, McAnally spoke before the city council, but Sheehan reportedly told the body that no employment agreement existed.

    While acknowledging that Byers actions violated city code, Sheehan said it doesn't rise to the level of disciplinary action – yet.

    "Based on my investigation, the action of Mayor Byers regarding offering employment to Mr. McAnally as a police officer violated the Hoonah Municipal Code, "Sheehan wrote. "Mayor Byers lacked the authority under [city code] to take this action. At this time, I do not believe Mayor Byers' conduct merits any disciplinary action, but I have requested that in the future, Mayor Byers not communicate with or confirm applicants for police or reserve officer positions until requested to do so by the Chief of Police to be sure the hiring follows the Hoonah Municipal Code.

    "If Mr. McAnally files a lawsuit against the City, disciplinary action or other action against Mayor Byers by the City may be necessary."

    McAnally has not filed any legal action against the city, though he did communicate with the city after the hiring was voided, saying he did not agree with the decision. McAnally also communicated that he believes the contract was legal and enforceable.

    In the same memo, Sheehan said that, while Byers' actions fall short of a removable offense, he needs additional training.

    "Mayor Byers' actions have been a costly distraction to the City," Sheehan wrote. "The actions place the City under unnecessary business and legal risk. The consequences of this risk include the loss of business and the City's business partners, the loss of liability insurance, an employee or resident lawsuit, impairment and loss of assets, and inability to hire qualified employees...

    "I do not recommend that the City Council remove Mr. Byers as Mayor. The conduct in this memorandum does not fit within the reasons listed in [state law]. I do recommend the following action: The City Council require that Mayor Byers attend formal classes and training regarding proper workplace conduct and treatment of employees and other subordinates. Mayor Byers must complete the classes and training, approved by me."

    The City of Hoonah declined further comment on this story.

     

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