Sunriver board to take up Mills matter on Monday

Police chief charged with misdemeanor harassment

Sunriver police Chief Mills charged

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Sunriver Service District board to take up Mills matter on Monday)

One day after Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said he's charged Sunriver police Chief Marc Mills with misdemeanor harassment, alleging that he shoved a police sergeant just over a month ago, the Sunriver Service District scheduled a meeting on Monday to discuss the matter.

Hummel said in a news release that he had completed his review of the investigative findings of the Oregon Department of Justice and that the charge was filed "based on the facts revealed."

"The charge resulted from Mills’ decision on December 1, 2017 to physically strike Sunriver Police Sergeant Joseph Patnode, while both were on duty, at the Sunriver Police station."

"The physical altercation took place in front of a Sunriver Police Department administrative staff member and another Sunriver Police Officer," Hummel said. "This other Sunriver officer reported the incident to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. 

“We expect and demand that our law enforcement leaders respect and comply with the laws we entrust them to enforce,” Hummel said. “The Sunriver officer who made the brave, courageous, and correct decision to report what happened should be proud.”

The Sunriver Service District Managing Board will hold a special executive session at 1 p.m. next Monday, followed roughly a half-hour later with any "action in response to the employment status of police Chief Mills," the agenda states. The board had been scheduled to take up the matter later in the month.

Mills, 62, has been on paid administrative leave since the investigation began in early December as the investigation got under way.

He became Sunriver’s police chief in February 2012 after more than 38 years with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, rising to the rank of captain.

Hummel told NewsChannel 21 Mills became very upset with Patnode over a police matter the day of the incident.

"He lost his cool about a policing matter and struck another sergeant in the chest, forcibly, violently," Hummel said. "That sergeant was thrown backwards, hit his head against the wall. And that's what led to the charges."

Asked about any other incidents of Mills losing his temper, Hummel said only the specifics of the alleged harassment would play a role in the case.

"We need to let the public know that if you're a police chief and you strike someone in anger while you're on duty, you will be charged. That's why I charged him," the DA said.

Hummel said Mills will have an opportunity to contest the charge, starting at his first court appearance on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 1:15 p.m.

He also said his office will not seek jail time in the matter, citing his years of service to Central Oregon.

Mills, contacted late Thursday by NewsChannel 21, said he could not speak to the matter but that his attorney was preparing a statement for release “as quickly as we can.”

“I can’t say too much,” Mills said. Asked if he will resign, Mills said, “I think there’s not many options there. I’m not saying one way or the other."

Mills’ lawyer, Erick Ward, confirmed a statement will be forthcoming “when the time is appropriate."

Debra Baker, board administrator for the Sunriver Service District, said she could not comment on the criminal allegation while their own internal investigation is underway.

“I probably shouldn’t (comment),” she told NewsChannel 21. “They have to do what they’re going to do.”

“Essentially, there’s two parallel investigations,” she said. “The DA is in charge of one, and he’s released his results. We have an internal administrative process that is well underway. We are hoping to have it resolved in the short term, that administrative investigation.”

Baker said she did not have a time frame for a conclusion, but said the matter is on the service district board’s Jan. 18 agenda (which on Friday was moved up to next Monday). 

Under state law, harassment is committed if someone subjects another person “to offensive physical contact.”

Assault, on the other hand, is charged when someone intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes injury to another.

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