Former PC chief takes aim at city

Randy Oxford

PRAIRIE CITY - Former Prairie City Police Chief Randy Oxford has notified the city that he intends to sue over his dismissal as chief.

Oxford's attorney, Jim Carpenter of John Day, filed a tort claim notice with the city last week.

The notice contends that Oxford performed according to standards set by the city, and that he was promised permanent status if he did so.

It also stated that Oxford was rated "above average" in regular performance evaluations, including one at the time of his termination.

"At no time did the City, including the council, acting as a unified body, formally advise Oxford" that he was not performing to the standards set by the city, the notice said.

By press time, Oxford had not filed a lawsuit.

City officials have not commented publicly on reasons for Oxford's termination.

The city's personnel manual sets a 12-month probationary period for police employees, and also notes that probationary employees "may be terminated at any time without appeal."

Meanwhile, officials are still considering the future of the Prairie City Police Department.

At a July 8 meeting, the City Council discussed what to do with the department, but made no decision.

Instead, the Council scheduled a workshop to discuss the issue further. The workshop is set for Saturday, July 18, at 10 a.m.

The Council voted June 23 not to renew Oxford's contract after July 1, his one-year anniversary date with the city. He was the sole member of the city's police force.

Last week Council member Bill Harrington, who has previously voiced concern over the department's future, once again questioned if a department was viable.

"We should look at if the city is capable of having a police department," Harrington said. "I have some concerns based on my experience."

Council member Carole Garrison said discussing the department will be a lot of work, and suggested a workshop.

She said personnel issues that involve the department are different than staff in the office and public works, and therefore such policy should be separate from that for other staff.

Garrison said she liked the idea of having a committee to oversee the department.

Before the Council voted to dismiss Oxford last month, Harrington made a motion to establish a committee to oversee the department. The motion failed.

Harrington said if the city commits to retaining the department, they are committing themselves to more work than they have done before.

The idea of contracting an officer from the John Day Police Department was also discussed as a possible solution.

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