PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Falsifying records, misusing city equipment and bad leadership -- in a nutshell, that's why Prineville Police Chief Eric Bush was fired, according to a report obtained Wednesday by NewsChannel 21.
The release of the findings by the city, under a public records request, comes 10 months after Bush was placed on paid administrative leave and weeks after he was fired - and sued the city for wrongful termination, disputing all of the investigator's claims.
The nearly $50,000 investigation is only now made public after the Crook County District Attorney's Office directed the city to hand it over, at NewsChannel 21's request.
The 277-page report on the investigation conducted by the Local Government Personnel Institute found Bush misused his "flex time," falsified records and unethically misused city equipment.
And despite Bush's denials and $2.5 million lawsuit against the city, for some Prineville residents, that investigation's conclusion is more than enough.
"If he was using the taxpayers' money to do things he shouldn't have been doing, like any of us, we would have lost our job," one woman said Wednesday.
But Bush is fighting all of it and slapping the city with that lawsuit, claiming he was wrongly fired because of his military obligations as a brigadier general with the Oregon Army National Guard.
Some think the city paid a hefty price to investigate petty wrongdoings.
"He's a general -- I mean, he has obligations and important things to deal with so, maybe I would give him the benefit of the doubt," said retired Guard member Grant Flegel, who once worked with Bush. "I have nothing against him -- I worked for him. He's a great guy, and I hope the best for him."
Many of the charges revolve around Bush's other job, with the Guard. The trouble came to a head after he was appointed late last summer as deputy assistant chief of staff for U.S. forces in Korea.
The report found Bush often did military work on the city's dime. Seven of the report's nine topics involve misusing city equipment for military purposes.
City officials also complained his Guard duties jeopardized the department. The report states: "Time away from office has caused stress with the leadership team. Specifically, even when Chief Bush is in the office, he is spending time working on his National Guard responsibilities."
City Manager Steve Forrester told investigators that he was told by Bush that the "new assignment in the National Guard would require him to be
gone between 74 to 139 days a year." The report continues, "Mr. Forrester estimated that this could be up to 27.8 weeks in which Chief Bush would be away from the police."
Police and city officials also reported to investigators that Bush was inattentive to their needs and unengaged in the department. He was described as stoic, unapproachable and arrogant.
Bush was also investigated for reported discrimination against a Hispanic employee, but the report stated those accusations were unfounded.
Bush was found to have committed misconduct in the following: misuse of flex time, falsifying time records, misuse of city credit card, city equipment, city email system, city gas card, city vehicle, failure to perform duties as police chief, and ethical violations.
Bush is also being investigated by the state Department of Justice for possible criminal charges. At last report, that investigation in ongoing.
City officials wouldn't comment on the case Wednesday citing the ongoing legal battle. Bush also declined NewsChannel 21's requests for an interview, though his attorney, Roxanne Farra, sent NewsChannel 21 the following statement Wednesday after the city's release of the investigator's report:
"The LGPI Report is full of provably false statements, and inaccurate information provided by people who complained about Chief Bush's time away from the office due to his military service. The City is well aware of the many factual errors and blatant falsehoods contained in the report, which cost the taxpayers many tens of thousands of dollars to obtain. Mr. Bush, through his attorneys, provided a comprehensive, 73-page response to the LGPI report, along with almost 3,000 pages of supporting exhibits. The response contradicts the report in full, disproving the report's conclusions about his flex time and all other matters in exacting detail, and is a matter of public record since it is attached as Exhibit A to Mr. Bush's Complaint. Mr. Bush looks forward to presenting his response to a Crook County jury, who will have the chance to fairly consider all of the facts in this case, before coming to a conclusion. "