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SLO police chief is placed on administrative leave

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After rumors began swirling about the employment status of San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell, the city of San Luis Obispo confirmed on May 8 that Gesell was placed on paid administrative leave for an indeterminate amount of time.

STEVE GESELL: - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • STEVE GESELL:

Since the announcement, little else has been confirmed, and it isn’t yet clear whether Gesell was the subject of the May 12 closed session special SLO City Council meeting, which included a conference with labor negotiators and a conference with legal counsel over anticipated litigation.

City Attorney Christine Dietrick wouldn’t say who or what were the subjects of discussion at the meeting, telling New Times that with such ongoing personnel matters generating public attention, the city has the responsibility of “balancing the privacy of employees with public interest.”

However, Dietrick did say that the city is facing a potential exposure to litigation as part of the matter discussed on May 12.

Kerri Rosenblum, president of the San Luis Obispo Staff Officer’s Association, couldn’t say whether Gesell’s employment status was the subject of the meeting. Gesell is an at will employee, who can be hired and fired by City Manager Katie Lichtig.

In a job-offer letter signed and dated Dec. 30, 2011, which ostensibly functions as Gesell’s contract with the city, Lichtig states that in the event she terminates Gesell’s employment “for reasons other than misconduct, malfeasance or criminal negligence,” Lichtig will negotiate a severance allowance with the City Council that will be no less than six month’s total salary and compensation.

According to the city’s most recent update (June 2014) on salary and compensation for department heads, Gesell was receiving an annual salary of $160,394—the tip top of the position’s approved pay range—with a total compensation package of $264,163. If Gesell were to be awarded a severance agreement, per the 2011 job-offer letter, it would equal a minimum of $132,082.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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