PRINEVILLE, Ore. - An Oregon Department of Justice investigation found insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against fired Prineville police chief Eric Bush regarding allegations of improper use of "flex time," city office equipment or travel reimbursements, Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins reported Monday.
Vitolins said she had asked the Oregon DOJ Criminal Justice Division last October 8th to begin a criminal investigation into the allegations that also led the city to have the Local Government Personnel Institute conduct an outside investigation.
Bush was placed on paid administrative leave last fall and fired a month ago, after the LGPI investigator concluded he misused city "flex time" in his dual role with the city and as a brigadier general in the Oregon Army National Guard, as well as falsified records, misused city equipment and provided poor leadership of the department.
Bush has strongly denied all of the claims and immediately filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the city.
In a brief news release, Vitolins noted the three allegations she'd requested the DOJ investigate: improper use of flex time, improper travel reimbursement claims and improper use of city office equipment.
The DA said she received a letter Friday from Kristin Hoffmeyer, the senior assistant attorney general assigned to the matter.
"After reviewing the report from Aaron Olson of LGPI, interviewing witnesses and Chief Bush, Ms. Hoffmeyer concluded that there is insufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Chief Bush committed any crimes regarding the three items listed above," Vitolins wrote, also providing the letter to NewsChannel 21.
In the letter, Hoffmeyer said DOJ Special Agent Todd Gray reviewed all of the submitted materials, as well as Olson's draft and 277-page final report, also interviewing both city and military witnesses, as well as Bush.
"At the conclusion of our investigation, we reviewed the case to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal prosecution for theft or official misconduct," Hoffmeyer wrote in her letter to Vitolins. "We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chief Bush committed a crime."
On the flex time issue, a review his time records left the agency "unable to determine with certainty how much flex time Bush was accruing and how much flex time he was using. … The policy does not require an employee to do anything more than keep track of his or her own time."
Regarding office equipment, Hoffmeyer quoted Bush as acknowledging using city equipment for military business "but felt that his use was not excessive."
"Based on the investigation, it does not appear that Bush attempted to hide or conceal his use of the city equipment for military business," she wrote, noting that Bush pointed to "a good deal of overlap in his positions with the city of Prineville and with the National Guard, since he is emergency manager for the city and director of the 911 center, both of which are organized under the Oregon Military Department."
"We were not able to establish Bush's use of city email or office equipment for military business violated city policy," the DOJ official wrote.