Connell police chief loses job

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 26, 2013 

Connell Police Chief Michael Kessler was fired Wednesday for allegedly viewing pornography on a city-issued cellphone and sexually harassing several women, among other charges.

Mayor Gary Walton called the former chief's conduct a "black eye" on the city.

"These actions constitute incompetency, inefficiency and inattention to duties," Walton wrote in Kessler's termination letter. He showed a "willful failure to maintain proper conduct" and is "unsuitable and unfit to employed by the city as police chief."

Walton, who also serves as the acting city administrator, will lead the police department until a new chief is hired, he said. He hopes to begin interviewing candidates next week.

"I can't divulge a lot of stuff because there is an ongoing investigation," Walton said.

Kessler could not be reached for comment.

He earned more than $74,000 per year, said Maria Pena, Connell's treasurer. His contract stipulates that the city has no obligation to pay him a severance package if he is fired for cause.

The city cited several allegations of misconduct to justify its decision:

w He sexually harassed two women and made sexually suggestive comments to a third.

w He watched pornography on the city-issued cellphone in the privacy of his home.

w His staff was not up to date on excessive force training, gun range training and a required monthly training.

w He failed to conduct performance reviews of his officers and hired reserve officers without approval from the city council.

Kessler's cellphone and city-issued computer recently were taken by a private investigator and information was extracted, city officials said. They declined to comment about what information was taken.

The city hired the investigator through its insurance carrier, Canfield Solutions. The investigator reports directly to Dan Hultgrenn, Connell's city attorney.

The investigation into Kessler started recently after allegations of misconduct were brought to the attention of city officials.

Connell police Sgt. Brad Quinton filed a complaint that accused Kessler of "disrespectful conduct" for trading disparaging text messages about Quinton with another Connell police officer.

A Department of Corrections employee, Jeff Herrmann, filed a complaint against Kessler saying the chief sent sexually explicit text messages to his estranged wife. Herrmann also accused Kessler of sending officers to harass him.

City officials declined to comment on the specifics of any of the complaints.

w Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service