Nine months after placing him on paid leave due to an unspecified investigation, the city of Prineville tersely announced Wednesday that Police Chief Eric Bush has been fired for the job he held for a decade.
Police Capt. Michael Boyd has been the interim chief since Bush was placed on paid leave last September. The brief release indicated Boyd will stay in that role “while the city conducts a search for a new police chief.”
The city has never disclosed any details about the personnel matter that led to the investigation of Bush, and did not do so Wednesday in issuing a two-sentence news release announcing his termination. Nor did it give any indication it would provide any details of the findings to the public.
The investigation was conducted and a report delivered in June to city officials by the Local Government Personnel Institute is an independent entity that helps local governments with personnel matters; it had indicated one reason for the delays in its investigation was a difficulty in contacting witnesses in the military.
But in response to recent public records requests by NewsChannel 21 and other media outlets, city officials refused to release any details from the report -- and said they might not do so if or when sanctions were imposed, if they decided it would not be in the “public interest” to do so.
On Wednesday, Bush's attorney, Roxanne Farra, told the Central Oregonian that a lawsuit already has been filed in Crook County Circuit Court in response to his termination.
"The evidence in this case will prove that Chief Bush was fired because of his uniformed service in the National Guard, in particular, his selection in July 2013 as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, J-3, United States Forces Korea," she told the newspaper in an email. "After nine months of cooperating with every aspect of the city’s 'investigation,' Eric Bush welcomes the opportunity to present the facts of his case to the members of the community that he has served for the last 23 years."
A member of the Prineville force since 1990, Bush had served as chief since 2003, also serving in several leading roles in the Oregon Army National Guard, currently as brigadier general with duties as deputy assistant chief of staff for U.S. forces in Korea.
According to the police chief’s Web page – still posted at http://www.cityofprineville.com/police/chief.php as of Wednesday afternoon – Bush joined the force in 1990 as a patrol officer, followed by stints in narcotics investigations, SWAT and mounted patrol, before being promoted to chief in 2003.
The page, which apparently has not been updated in five years, indicated Bush “is scheduled to deploy with his unit to Iraq in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.” (He indeed did serve, receiving the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star for his time there).
Now a brigadier general, Bush also serves as deputy assistant chief of staff for U.S. Forces Korea, a position announced last July.
Whatever happens next in his civilian life, there has been no change in Bush’s good standing with the Oregon Army National Guard, a spokesman indicated.
Major Stephen Bomar, director of public affairs for the Oregon Military Department, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday that "Brigadier General Bush continues to serve in the same status ... and remains a part of the Oregon National Guard.”
Bomar said Bush is "absolutely" still in good standing in his Guard role: "As a matter of fact, he recently out-performed many of the younger soldiers on his physical fitness test requirement."
Last summer, when his new post in South Korea was announced, Bush told NewsChannel 21 it would involve “trips back and forth,” and the same time commitment to the Guard he had previously.
“It varies from 74 to 139 days a year,” Bush said last July. “The biggest change is that I won’t be doing traditional ‘drill weekends’ or an ‘annual training’ that is typically associated with reserve service. Rather, my time will be driven by training and operational requirements from Korea."
During that interview, two months before being placed on paid leave, Bush said he was not too worried about how things would go back home while he’s out of the country.
“I have a great team here,” Bush said, adding, “Keep in mind much of that time runs over weekends as well.”
NewsChannel 21’s Alicia Inns was in Prineville gathering reaction to the Bush firing, and will have that tonight on NewsChannel 21 at Five and Six.