Updated 7:15 p.m.
The Fairbanks City Council postponed the confirmation of Ron Dupee as Fairbanks police chief during a 3½-hour meeting Monday.
After multiple commenters shared concerns about the hiring process and Dupee’s candidacy, the council voted to postpone the hiring decision until they have an executive session to discuss Dupee’s qualifications.
More than 10 community members endorsed Dupee and praised him as a natural leader, policeman, hockey coach, family person and friend.
However, other commenters claimed the hiring process was not transparent or fair. Specifically, they said that more qualified candidates did not make it to the interviewing stage, internal candidates had an advantage over other applicants, police employees were not asked for their opinion about the candidates, and the public was not notified on all parts of the process. Many of the commenters questioned the mayor’s actions.
“There were a lot of testimonies tonight, and I think quite a few of them are pretty misinformed,” Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly said. “In fact I think some of them are giving me far too much credit as being some sort of superhero-power puppet master or something.” Matherly went on to explain that the hiring process involved a diverse group of people other than him and that he communicated to the public regularly.
Another concern was Dupee not meeting all the qualifications listed in the job description, such as five years of supervisory experience and a degree in fields such as criminal justice or police administration.
The city’s Human Resources Director Angela Foster-Snow responded that “Internal candidates have an opportunity to move forward without meeting every requirement on the job description,” and "It’s not uncommon that those candidates are more generously considered for their experiences.”
Councilwoman Valerie Therein proposed to postpone the vote to confirm Dupee until council members can review the comments and discuss Dupee’s qualifications in an executive session.
Matherly said that hiring is the task for the Human Resources Department and discussing qualifications is “not the job of the council.”
Councilman Aaron Gibson seconded Therein’s motion, saying that “while the mayor is correct, and it’s not the council’s position to be involved in selecting who is going to be the police chief, but it is the council’s decision to tell them who is not.”
The council voted 5-1 to postpone the confirmation, with Lonny Marney voting against it and Therein, Gibson, Shoshana Kun, June Rogers and Jim Clark supporting the motion. The council will hold an executive session next week and vote on confirming Dupee during the March 8 meeting.
The hiring process
Dupee is the final candidate for police chief, picked out of 18 applicants — two internal and 16 external. The internal candidates automatically moved to the interviewing stage, following the regular city practice, Matherly said.
“Internal applicants always move forward, no matter what,” Matherly said. “This is just what we do in the city of Fairbanks.”
During the week of Jan. 18, the pool of 16 external candidates was sorted by the city’s Human Resources Department and several subject matter experts — Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer and a retired police chief, Greg Russell, who is now an independent law enforcement practices consultant.
“They were brought up because they have policing expertise,” Matherly said. “I couldn’t do that.”
On the next stage, 10 applicants — two internal and eight external — were interviewed by the nine-person hiring committee, consisting of community members with different areas of expertise. The interviews were done on Jan. 29, and the applicant list was narrowed to five finalists: Richard Sweet, Ron Dupee, Koula Black, Derek Bos and Todd Richardson.
The city hosted a public forum Feb. 9 where the five candidates were asked questions prepared by the city's Diversity Council. Based on the results of the public forum and recommendations from the interview panel, Matherly made the final choice of Dupee for police chief and presented it to the Fairbanks City Council for approval.
Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.