Chief Muchow put on paid leave

He’s also ordered by Gold Hill City Council to remove himself from Alford investigation

GOLD HILL — The City Council placed its police chief on immediate paid administrative Tuesday night while its auditors and attorney investigate allegations of fraud, harassment and other claims made against Chief Dean Muchow.

The majority affirmative vote was cast in the presence of City Attorney Steve Rich after the council concluded an emergency executive session. Council members Jan Fish, Gus Wolf and Donna Silva voted in favor of the action. Council members Tom Daily and Kathleen Price voted against the motions.

Muchow did not return calls for comment.

The Medford accounting firm of Purkeypile and Johannsen are reviewing Muchow’s cell phone charges, time cards and records with SORC (Southern Oregon Regional Communications, the valley’s emergency dispatch service), said City Recorder Mary Goddard.

“They are obligated to do this,” said Goddard. “If they find issues of fraud, they will notify the council.”

Rich told the council the accounting firm would supply “specific recommendations” if necessary.

Council members were also sent a multi-page questionnaire by the firm asking if they have knowledge of any actual instance of fraud within the municipality or its departments.

The questionaire created consternation and some confusion among the council members.

All voiced concerns the city could lose its insurance coverage.

“I’m concerned that (the auditors) are concerned,” said Fish. “This is an investigation. We need to cover (ourselves).”

Price said she was unaware of the questionaire. Daily was apparently unaware he was required to respond.

“You’re going to respond to that?” asked Daily, with an audible groan.

Fish, Wolf and Silva all said response is mandatory.

“You have to (respond) Tom,” said Fish.

Rich informed the council about recalled former Councilwoman Christine Alford’s tort claim against the city. The claim stems from Muchow’s investigation of Alford for identity theft, Rich said.

Alford’s tort claim notice states Muchow has harassed and intimidated her, and that he filed a false claim against her with the state Department of Human Services. The notice further states the city is vicariously liable for Muchow’s alleged actions.

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted unanimously to instruct Muchow to remove himself from Alford’s investigation and turn it over to “an outside agency.”

But Daily and Price were visibly upset with their fellow council members for placing Muchow on leave — and for requesting the immediate return of Muchow’s cellphone and his car and office keys pending a resolution to the investigation.

“You guys are bushwhacking him,” Price said of Muchow, shaking her head. “This town needs police protection. The merchants of this city are not going to be happy with you.”

Alford, reached for comment Tuesday night, said: “I’m satisfied with that. Sounds fair to me.”

Muchow was called at home and notified of the council’s action immediately after the meeting. Price and Silva will meet with Sgt. Hank Hobart to discuss scheduling for the duration of the chief’s absence, they said.

sspecht@mailtribune.com

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