News - July 13, 2011

Atherton police chief retires; interim chief appointed

by Renee Batti

Atherton Police Chief Mike Guerra is leaving on July 15 the post he has held since November 2009, in a department he has served since 1985. He is being replaced on an interim basis, effective July 18, by former Santa Rosa police chief Ed Flint, the interim city manager announced July 11.

In an unusual arrangement, Chief Guerra will stay on with the town until April, not as police chief but performing specific projects, essentially pro bono, while being paid from the pool of money he accumulated from vacation and other leave time, according to Interim City Manager John Danielson.

"He's really being kind to us," Mr. Danielson said. "He's got so much time on the books that if he cashed it all out it would be kind of devastating for us."

The projects will be "meaningful," such as working on "best management practices" policies and a records-management system for the police department, Mr. Danielson said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Danielson has appointed Mr. Flint, who also worked as police chief in Elk Grove for some time, as interim police chief to run the department, which he expects will remain operational long into the future, despite calls for outsourcing.

"I absolutely, unequivocally, completely have no interest whatsoever, nor has the council put any pressure on me whatsoever, in outsourcing the police department," Mr. Danielson said.

That said, he and the council want to streamline the department and reduce costs, he noted. He will ask the union representing the police to reopen contract talks and will seek concessions in the neighborhood of $200,000 a year, he said.

Chief Guerra is the third police chief to leave the position since August 2008, when Bob Brennan retired. His successor, Glenn Nielsen, was appointed by then-city manager Jerry Gruber, retired after only about 14 months in the post, leaving town with a large cash payout for unused vacation time.

Chief Guerra's current annual base salary is about $171,300, and his total compensation last fiscal year was about $274,700, according to Finance Director Louise Ho. The latter figure includes about $25,100 of vacation cash out, she said.

Mr. Danielson said he chose to hire an interim police chief because he himself is in his post on an interim basis, and the appointment of a permanent chief would best be left for the permanent manager who will succeed him.

In a written statement, Mr. Danielson said the new interim chief has logged about 35 years of multi-agency law enforcement experience. He began his law enforcement career with the California Highway Patrol in Redwood City, and later moved to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, where he worked up through the ranks to captain. His career includes a stint as assistant police chief in Citrus Heights.

Mr. Flint also served active duty in the Army, and in the Army Reserves and California National Guard, Mr. Danielson said.


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