After an internal investigation regarding the form city manager firing a gun in his office was released to the public, Keizertimes submitted a list of questions to city officials and Mayor Cathy Clark hoping to fill in gaps in the final report and what steps the city would be taking in the aftermath of the incident.
We are presenting our questions alongside the city officials’ responses (with one editor’s clarification) in their entirety.
Keizertimes: Will there be any consequences for current Keizer employees who knew Mr. Eppley had violated city policy well before the March 4 incident?
City’s response: The City of Keizer does not comment on employee personnel matters except as required by law.
KT: Why was there a 13-day delay between the incident and contacting the Oregon State Police to request an investigation?
CR: Consistent with the findings in the Oregon State Police report there did not appear to have been a crime committed that would require immediate police attention.
KT: The Oregon State Police appear only to have investigated whether Mr. Eppley had been “reckless” in his discharge of a weapon in his office.
ORS 166.370, possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in public building or court facility, states any person who intentionally possesses a loaded or unloaded firearm or any other instrument used as a dangerous weapon, while in or on a public building, shall upon conviction be guilty of a Class C felony. The mere act of taking a firearm into his office appears to violate Oregon law.
Why is this not addressed in the internal investigation report or elsewhere?
CR: Oregon State Police investigated the incident to determine the potential for any criminal charges. The scope of their investigation included ORS 166.370, which includes an exception for a person who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun.
(Editor’s clarification: Eppley told other media outlets he possesses a concealed carry permit. Even if the law provides exceptions, city personnel policy would have required Eppley to have had permission from either himself, the chief of police or the human resources director to carry a gun inside the civic center. Nothing confirming or denying permission for Eppley to have a firearm in the civic center been made public. Yet, Eppley told an investigator that he likely asked people to whom he showed guns that they not to say anything because he was violating city policy.)
KT: If the council chooses not to address the question of violating Oregon law regarding weapons in public buildings, are its members concerned about the precedent (regarding accountability) it sets for all future Keizer city managers?
CR: Oregon State Police investigated the incident to determine the potential for any criminal charges. The scope of their investigation included ORS 166.370. The City of Keizer’s expectation is that all current and future employees will continue to comply with all applicable laws in the State of Oregon as well as all city policies and rules.
KT: Why did Mr. Eppley’s disposal of evidence not appear to trouble city council members?
CR: City staff cannot comment on the thought process of individual Council members, and the basis for the question appears to be speculative because it assumes that council members were not troubled by disposal of the evidence.
KT: Given all the now-known ways Mr. Eppley violated the trust of the council and the residents of the city he served, what fears kept the council from simply terminating his employment rather presenting him with an opportunity to resign? (Please be as specific as possible. Do not shy from quoting legal precedent.)
CR: Again, city staff cannot comment on the thought process of individual council members, and the basis for the question appears to be speculative because it assumes that council members had fears. Furthermore, to the extent individual council members may have had concerns regarding terminating Mr. Eppley’s employment, the answer to the question would likely involve attorney-client privileged communications.
In general, it is typically better to allow the employee to resign as it reduces the employer’s potential liability.
KT: Will city policies or civic center policies be updated as a result of this incident? If so, how?
CR: In accordance with the personnel policy manual the City of Keizer will continue to prohibit “Being in possession of guns and weapons on city property, including parking lots or in city vehicles unless approved in writing by the city manager, chief of police or human resource director. This prohibition does not apply to authorized possession of guns and weapons by law enforcement personnel, nor does it apply to the lawful possession of concealed weapons in an employee’s locked vehicle parked in a city parking lot.”
KT: There are residents who no longer feel safe entering the Keizer Civic Center, even with Mr. Eppley gone. What actions will the city take to ensure residents feel safe when they have concerns to raise or need to do business with the city?
CR: The basis for the question appears to be speculative because it assumes that residents do not feel safe. Notwithstanding that appearance, the City of Keizer provides multiple ways for members of the public to raise concerns and to conduct business with the city, most of which do not require residents to enter the Keizer Civic Center, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
KT: What actions will the city council take to regain the trust of the public?
CR: City staff does not have authority to respond on behalf of the council, and the basis for the question appears to be speculative because it assumes a loss of the public’s trust. Notwithstanding the above, the council continues to expect staff to strictly enforce city policies and applicable laws, including the prohibition of possession of firearms on city property unless an applicable exception applies. Staff will review the policies and provide additional training as appropriate.
KT: Given that numerous current and former KPD officers witnessed Mr. Eppley’s actions and did not report it, what actions will the Keizer Police Department take to regain the trust of the public?
CR: Again, the City of Keizer does not comment on employee personnel matters, and the basis for the question appears to be speculative because it assumes a loss of the public’s trust.
Notwithstanding the above, all city employees continue to be expected to serve the citizens of Keizer to the best of their ability and it is our hope that over time, members of the public who may have concerns will reflect back on both the actions taken by the city and the ongoing services provided and will see that we have been both responsible and professional in our response.