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Junction City fires embattled police chief.

Byline: Chelsea Gorrow The Register-Guard

JUNCTION CITY - Junction City Police Chief Mark Chase has been fired, effective immediately.

The chief, who was placed on a five-month paid administrative leave in 2014 and subsequently filed a $300,000 federal lawsuit against the city, was let go Tuesday, City Administrator Jason Knope confirmed Wednesday.

A message to Chase seeking comment on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

Knope said the firing was not related to a specific incident but the result of "an ongoing personnel issue." He declined to elaborate.

Although Chase was released at the end of the business day on Tuesday, Knope said it was not the first time Chase was "made aware of the potential" for his termination.

There is no acting chief at this time. Two sergeants - Eric Markell and Dan Miller - will balance the duties until someone can be brought on board, Knope said.

Markell served as interim chief when Chase was on leave previously. Knope said he will reach out to the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police in the next several days to bring an interim chief on board.

Chase's annual salary was $93,228.

Chase filed suit in June, following two investigations into his leadership and workplace conduct.

The lawsuit was filed against the muni cipality and former City Administrator Melissa Bowers. It alleged that he was denied his procedural rights to due process and that his First Amendment free-speech rights were violated.

Chase claimed that Bowers, who had placed him on leave and initiated the investigations, discriminated against him because of his Christian religious beliefs. He further alleged that she misrepresented information about him to the City Council in an effort to "force (Chase) to resign due to his religious beliefs" or otherwise deny him his rights of due process.

After the investigations were completed, the city reinstated Chase as chief in February 2015. Bowers resigned shortly thereafter, citing personal reasons.

At the time of Chase's return, one police officer quit the Junction City Police Department on the spot. Two other department employees threatened to quit.

The jury trial requested in Chase's lawsuit does not appear to have been scheduled. But the suit remains open, with the most recent procedural hearing held in March.

In their answer to the lawsuit, Bowers and the city deny Chase's allegations.

Chase was hired by the city to serve as police chief in 2009. He served 10 years previously with the Salem Police Department.

There are 15 staff members in the Junction City Police Department.

Knope was hired as city administrator last May after serving more than eight years as the city's public works director.

Follow Chelsea on Twitter @chelseagorrow. Emails to chelsea.gorrow@registerguard.com.

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Title Annotation:Law Enforcement; Mark Chase was placed on leave in 2014 and is suing the city
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 7, 2016
Words:448
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