Fairbanks City Council members discuss vote to delay hiring of police chief

City of Fairbanks Police Station entrance
City of Fairbanks Police Station entrance(KTVF)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 4:20 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 5:06 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Monday, February 22nd, the Fairbanks City Council voted to postpone the official hiring of Ron Dupee as Chief of the Fairbanks Police Department (FPD). The vote came after over an hour of citizen comments regarding the selection of Dupee as chief.

A majority of people who commented were in favor of Dupee being approved including comments from Alaska State Trooper Captain Ronald Wall, North Pole Police Chief Steve Dutra, retired FPD Chief Erik Jewkes, and fellow finalist and acting Police Chief Rick Sweet.

The council also heard comments from citizens who expressed concern at the process to hire a new chief. Gregg Foster, a retired FPD officer and applicant to the position claimed that the process was unfair and not transparent enough. His concerns where echoed by Borough Assemblywoman Marna Sanford who stated that for the public to trust the new chief, they have to trust the hiring process.

The motion to postpone, put forward by Valerie Therrien and seconded by Aaron Gibson, passed in a vote of five to one, with Lonny Marney as the sole ‘nay’ vote. Therrien said in an interview that she wanted more time to discuss Dupee’s selection and qualifications before deciding how to vote.

“I think there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the process by which the mayor chose the chief of police position, and I feel that this city council needed to be able to talk about that,” Therrien said. She went on to say that she felt the best way to do this was in a private executive session. “I think it’s best to do that, when it is a personnel matter, behind closed doors because of confidentiality.”

Marney, who was the only ‘nay’ vote said in an interview, ”We were there to do an up or down vote. That was simply it, and I think that will move the department on and get things back to normal.” Marney went on to say that he thought an executive session was a waste of time, and that in two weeks they will still have to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Marney says had the vote been held, he planned to vote ‘no’ saying he felt there was a better candidate for the job. However, he said during executive session he will keep an open mind and may change his vote the next time the matter comes before the council.

Therrien said that it is only their job to confirm or deny, but she felt they needed more time to discuss the issues before she could give her vote.

In a statement from his office, Mayor Jim Matherly, who selected Dupee for the position said, “It’s the council prerogative to delay a vote.”

The council asked for an executive session to be held on March 1st, prior to the next city council meeting on March 8th.

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