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Police Chief: 'I Was Asked to Step Down'

Exiting South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne said he was asked to leave, while City Manager Sergio Gonzalez said he did not initiate the departure.

South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne submitted his resignation on Jan. 22, but the question remains: Whose idea was it?

"I was asked to step down,'' Payne wrote in an email to Patch Monday afternoon, following the announcement that the department's top cop would re-enter retirement. 

The only city official with the power to ask Payne to leave, City Manager Sergio Gonzalez, refuted that assertion during an afternoon phone interview. Gonzalez reiterated that Payne submitted his resignation from the department last week, after fewer than three years in the position. 

"We had several conversations and the culmination of those conversations happened on Jan. 22 when he submitted his resignation,'' Gonzalez said, adding, "I regularly meet with my department heads, and recently had meetings with the Chief based on where the department is and how he sees himself in the organization.''

Payne's initial statement, following news of his upcoming departure, hinted that leaving was not his idea, though he harbors no ill will toward the city. Payne will stay on the job until Gonzalez names an interim chief. 

Payne retired from the department back in 2007 after 35 years on the job. Then, in 2010, amid residents' questions of propriety regarding the selection process, Payne was named chief of police by then-City Manager John Davidson.

Gonzalez was reticent to comment further about Payne's leaving, citing it as a personnel issue. However, he did compliment Payne's commitment to the community. 

"I think there's no doubt that he’s worked very hard. I have no concerns about the level of work he’s produced. It's obvious he cares deeply about the community and the department,'' he said.

Still, Gonzalez, added, there's an opportunity on the table "to evaluate what the organization is doing right and what we can do better going forward.''

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Ron Rosen January 29, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Now is your chance, Patch, to do some serious reporting. Find out what went wrong.
Donna Evans (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 03:31 AM
Thanks, Ron. I'm all eyes if anyone wants to shoot me an email regarding rumblings that I can run down. donna.evans@patch.com
Ron Rosen January 29, 2013 at 04:03 AM
No, Donna. You'll have to do your own digging.
Donna Evans (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 04:44 AM
One of the many tools journalists use to ferret out information is asking for public input. It is by no means the sole avenue of research. Happy to take this discussion off line, Ron, as it isn't forwarding a discussion about the matter at hand.
Herbert Barnes January 29, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Here's a course of action: Chief Payne says he was asked to step down. Ask him who made that request. Then ask that person if it is true.
John Q. Public January 29, 2013 at 03:36 PM
That's too easy Herbert, especially for Patch. You can't even call this site Journalism. It's more like a hybrid of a HS newspaper and the National Enquirer.
Natasha Prime January 29, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Why don't we just thank the Chief for his service and then give him privacy and respect. Speculation on the reasons for his departure serve no other function than rumor mongering and spreading negativity. Particularly when people post things anonymously.
Maureen Whitman January 29, 2013 at 08:06 PM
I totally agree!!!!!
henk friezer January 29, 2013 at 08:42 PM
I have witnessed numerous chiefs during my tenure in south pasadena (starting with Mel Viney, who I saw numerous times with his feet on his desk sleeping in his office). I have watched Joe through his police career in SP. His contributions to the community go far beyond the department. He has volunteered his services in a variety of community activities from the 4th of July to scouting and numerous other events. He was definitely not an 9-5 bureaucrat. Unlike many of his predecessors he was visible at most city events. I do not know what kind of an administrator he was in the department, but it seemed well run during his tenure. He was well respected among his fellow officers. I wish him well, but Knowing Joe, think he will still remain active in the community.
Therese Molina January 29, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Don't agree here. I think the Chief sounds like he might WANT to set the record a little straighter. By asking him we may be avoiding speculation. I think he should be extended that courtesy.
Janet Cartwright January 29, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Lol, Ron, you sound like someone's dad ;)
Ron Rosen January 30, 2013 at 01:32 AM
Henk: The way Joe Payne got his job doesn't bother you? The possibility that there might be good reason why he's stepping down raises no questions in your mind? You admit that you do not know what kind of administrator he was "but it seemed well run during his tenure." That's enough for you? You don't wonder what might have led to the City Manager asking him to step down, if that is what happened? Are you a reporter?
S Prime January 30, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Mr. Rosen I mean no offense but when will the axe you have been grinding regarding your alleged malfeasance of Chief Payne's employment be sharp enough? Your harping on this subject is past due.
John Q. Public January 30, 2013 at 04:58 PM
I don't see transparency in government as having an axe to grind. I think Ron was/is right for calling the former council members (Ten and Sifuentes) on the carpet and shedding light on the shady way Dan Watson was fired and then replaced with Payne. The whole situation was covered in flies from the first time the council violated the Brown Act to hide their agenda. The LA County DA even chastised the council for their dealings in an open letter that recognized the fact of their violations, yet did not pursue an investigation due to lack of manpower. None of you see it strange that a retired police Sergeant (and one-time Lieutenant before a reduction in rank due to dept restructuring) beat out all of the seasoned Captains, Commanders, Deputy Chiefs and Chiefs that applied for the position? How exactly does one with little more than mid-level administrative experience trump the level of leadership that applied for the position? Look past the smoke and mirrors, folks. This fair city has lot of manure to shovel, you just have to be willing haul it yourself. We need more citizens like Ron who aren't afraid to call out our elected officials when they need it. If more people paid attention to what's going on in this town like Ron does, situations like Watson's firing and the Fair Oaks debacle would never have happened. Thank you, Ron! Keep "grinding that axe!"
henk friezer January 30, 2013 at 09:38 PM
I think the issue at hand is not how Payne got the job,but once he got it what his performance was in the position. It is like people harping on Obama getting elected, He DID! It is now time to gauge Obama's job performance. Same with Joe, once he got the job, it became a mute issue. It was time to "put out or get out". And apparently the powers that be thought it was time for him to "get out". The same questions and cloud that put him into his position removed him from the position (more questions unanswered). Most that I talked to (myself included) thought, as outside observers, that Payne was doing a good job. His PD was run as an honest, visible and efficient department. He was honest and open to the community, kept them apprised of situations and was accessible. He led without much controversy, unlike some of his predecessors. As for his selection, though he bypassed higher ranking and more experienced candidates he was apparently deemed to be most qualified to lead his ranks by a MAJORITY of the council who were elected by the people of South Pas.He also knew the inner workings of the department and the issues at hand within the department, having worked his way up through the ranks throughout his SPPD career. Another asset he had was being a longtime resident of the community. So it made sense to hire him over an outsider. So whatever the reason for his dismissal, let's give credit for his devotion to the job he did and contribution to his community!
Ron Rosen January 31, 2013 at 12:28 AM
The process by which Joe Payne became chief was corrupt. It matters. Joe knew it wasn't above board, and he took the job anyway. The selection process of who would replace Watson was corrupt. It mattered. Instead of an experienced police manager, we got someone with minimal experience who would not have been taken seriously as a candidate for Chief in any other town. I have no idea what kind of job he did as Chief, and unlike Henk, I'm unwilling to assume he did a good job or a bad job. Apparently there was widespread discontent in the police department and there were sufficient issues for the City Manager to decide that he should no longer be Chief. Although Payne and now Henk want to insunuate that Payne's removal was largely political, I know of no evidence of that, and I'd be very surprised if the CIty Manager would succumb to such pressure. Although some people want to see the current "powers that be" in the same light as the people who installed Payne as chief, there's no comparison. I'm surprised and disappointed in you, Henk, for defending a process that cannot be defended by anyone who knows the facts. Is it really as simple as Sifuentes, Ten, Cacciotti, and Putnam must have known what they were doing? No. That's the kind of thinking that allows corrupt leadership to take hold. We're way past that, Henk.
Arthur Flemming January 31, 2013 at 08:31 PM
My own fear is that the city's track record with the police chief position has been compromised. The last two and three of the last four occupants have been removed involuntarily. Joe Payne came in initially without a contract, and then, on a short one (for two years). The usual duration up to that point had been four years. A good candidate for the job will check that history. I worry that the best candidates out there will simply pass on South Pasadena as a city not worth the risk.
Bill C. February 21, 2013 at 02:47 AM
Anyone who thinks Lt's in a department the size of South Pasadena don't have management experience doesn't have a clue to what the duties of a Lt. entail in a smaller department. The CM obviously asked him to step down, his answer side steps anything that looks solid and transparent. Downplaying the time a candidate has been with a department is really silly, police managers are pretty much a dime a dozen and bringing in someone from a department the size of LAPD to S. Pasadena isn't always a good fit.
Ron Rosen February 21, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Your point my be well taken in some circumstances, Bill C. But don't forget the questionable process whereby this "Lt." was selected. It is unfortunate that the CM can't say more about the reasons for the "stepping down," but I'm sure the "Lt." knows more than he's saying. I'm sure you can find out some of the reasons too.

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