Colfax residents who attended Tuesday’s Colfax City Council meeting expressed concern for the safety of the community after the city fired Colfax Police Chief Rick McNannay on Thursday for “findings of dishonesty.”
McNannay was placed on paid leave in early November after an investigation into department procedures.
According to a statement from the city, Mayor Todd Vanek terminated McNannay’s employment “based on findings of dishonesty from an independent, third-party investigation into Mr. McNannay’s attestations of compliance with state mandates for pre-employment certification of police officers.”
“The city of Colfax has reviewed all of its police officers’ certifications and qualifications to ensure compliance with state laws and regulations,” the statement said.
According to the statement, McNannay, who was hired as Colfax police chief in July 2012, has appealed the termination to the Colfax Civil Service Commission, and that appeals process is underway.
Vanek said the city will have to wait to hire a new police chief until the appeal is settled. He could not comment further on McNannay’s situation.
McNannay’s absence, and the loss of another officer in December, has cut down the city’s police staff to three full-time officers and one part-time officer.
The department now depends on the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office to respond to calls that cannot be covered by the city police department, Vanek said.
“We just cannot depend on such a small department,” said Sarah McKnight, an ex-city council member who attended the meeting.
She said the department’s “skeleton crew” does not give her confidence the city will have adequate and fast emergency coverage, even with the sheriff’s office’s help.
“We want the coverage we used to have,” she said.
Another audience member at Tuesday’s meeting complained about cars being parked illegally at the high school, which she said has caused thousands of dollars in property damage. She was also concerned there was not enough police coverage in the city to address the issue.
McKnight said she blames the lack of leadership for the cutbacks in the department, particularly the city council for not questioning the mayor’s actions and not appreciating the residents’ fears.
“They’re not engaged in what’s going on,” she said.
When McNannay was still chief, he told the council in early 2018 the department was underfunded and understaffed.
According to a Feb. 22 Daily News story, he also said the department was dealt a blow after losing its contract with Whitman Hospital and Medical Center, which he said funded 70 to 75 percent of an officer’s salary.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 4.
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