This is just embarrassing — or should be — to anyone associated with the Columbia Police Department, or with city government, period.
COLUMBIA, SC — A Columbia Police Department captain was fired Monday after city officials said he failed to report to duty, secretly recorded a phone call with a supervisor and engaged in spreading rumors.
But David Navarro, the former captain, says he has done nothing wrong. In fact, he has signed a sworn affidavit accusing interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago of asking him months ago to participate in a scheme to frame the chief’s boss on drug and weapons charges. The affidavit was provided Monday to The State newspaper by Glenn Walters, an Orangeburg attorney who is representing Navarro in his dispute with the city. Those who lie on affidavits risk criminal charges if their statements are proven false.
The back-and-forth between Navarro and city officials led Monday to one-on-one meetings between news reporters and City Manager Teresa Wilson, Santiago, the city’s human resources manager and three other city employees. In those interviews, city officials gave almost unprecedented explanations about Navarro’s firing. Typically, city officials only will confirm a firing and then cite a policy of not speaking about personnel matters….
… as, you recall, city officials did and still do with regard to former Chief Randy Scott. Which sort of stands out — this willingness to take public sides in the dispute and discredit Navarro. (At this point, a city official is saying, “We can’t win with you media types. You blast us when we won’t talk, and you blast us when we do.” And I suppose there’s something in that.)
The reference to “the chief’s boss” above is not to former Chief Scott, or to City Manager Teresa Wilson, but to senior assistant city manager Alison Baker.
Which sort of points to part of the problem. In this weak mayor, council-manager form of city government, the lines of accountability are wonderfully vague and confused, to anyone who doesn’t make a profession, or at least an avid hobby, of following city government. There is no one elected by the city’s voters who can act unilaterally to straighten out the mess, as there is no elected executive in charge of the police department. The mayor is but one of seven votes on the council.
Which is why stuff like this just festers, on and on. In the meantime, the seven elected co-directors of the city, to the extent that they can work together, need to do what they can to sort out this ongoing soap opera that is the Columbia Police Department. Because it’s not taking care of itself. That is to say, contrary to the myths propagated by advocates of the council-manager system, the “professionals” aren’t handling it very well.