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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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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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