Candidate raises questions about hiring process

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My name is Lori Ketron and I have been a resident of Superior since July of 2013. I retired from the Arizona Department of Public Safety as an officer after 24 years in law enforcement. The Superior Town Council voted in October 2013 to end contract negotiations with Pinal County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement service in Superior and to retain the Superior Police Department. At this time, the police department had an interim police chief, Sgt. Pat Ramirez, from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, as the police department had been without a chief of police since the last chief left in May 2013. The town council was now tasked with hiring a new police chief as the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office removed Sgt. Ramirez as the interim police chief.

On Nov. 18, 2013, the Town of Superior advertised for a police chief on the Arizona League of Cities and Towns and the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZ POST) websites. The closing date for applications was Dec. 9, 2013. I completed the application and returned it to town hall before the Dec. 9 deadline. Prior to turning in my application, I did several things in the community to get a better understanding of the issues the police department was experiencing and issues within the community. I met with several members of the chamber of commerce, citizens, the interim town manager, Margaret Gaston, several town council members, and three of the four police officers employed at the police department. I felt I could utilize my unique skills and abilities to affect positive change within the police department and community.

In December 2013, the town council voted to accept the IGA between the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Town of Superior for DPS to provide a sergeant as an interim police chief until the town could hire a chief. DPS Sgt. Ed McNeill was assigned to the police department. Between Christmas and New Year’s, I received a call from my husband, who told me he had received a text message from the town manager, Margaret Gaston. Apparently the message was meant for me because she was asking me to go to the police department so they could get my fingerprints taken to be sent to DPS to start my background process for the chief’s position. I called her and she told me she had been trying to reach me thru email for a week but her emails to me kept getting bounced back. I asked her what email address she was using and she said she had used the one that was on my employment application. I wondered to myself why she didn’t just call me when the emails kept coming back undelivered. She had my cell phone number from the same employment application. It was later discovered by Margaret and myself she had not used the correct email address. I went to the police department and submitted my fingerprints. My question is why would she text my husband and not call me? Why would she wait a week to try and get in touch with me by phone on a time sensitive issue?

On Jan. 8, 2014, I received a phone call from a DPS background investigator. She interviewed me for two hours for the chief’s position, which is standard procedure during a background investigation for a sworn officer position, and set an appointment with me to meet with me and my husband at our home in Superior on Jan. 17, 2014. The investigator also requested I have my college transcripts in hand for the meeting. I ordered and paid for these online through the two colleges I had attended. On Jan. 9, the investigator called me back and cancelled our appointment. She said the Town of Superior “jumped the gun” and started the backgrounds before they should have. The investigator said she would put my background on hold until after the oral board interviews, which were scheduled for Jan. 24, 2014.

On Jan. 10, 2014 at 4:01 p.m., I received an email from Margaret Gaston. The email was addressed to me as “Candidate for Chief of Police for the Town of Superior” and requested I answer a list of 10 supplemental questions before the oral board interview, scheduled for Jan. 24, 2014. Ms. Gaston requested I keep the day of Jan. 24 open and she would send me a time for my oral board after she received and reviewed my answers to the supplemental questions. The due date for the supplemental questions was Jan. 16, 2014. I turned these answers in to town hall on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. This document was 10 pages in length as the questions were very thought provoking and required a great deal of time to complete. I worked on this project for four days.

On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 at 2:42 p.m., I received an email from Margaret Gaston scheduling me for my oral board interview on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 at 9:45 a.m. On Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 at 1:38 p.m., I received another email from Margaret Gaston informing me I had not met the minimum qualifications of the job and would not be interviewed. I immediately emailed Ms. Gaston and asked what qualification I did not meet. Her email answer to me within minutes was “the supervisory experience”. I then immediately called Ms. Gaston and spoke with her on the telephone. When I explained to her I met the minimum qualifications, she said she did not make that determination. She said an outside agency was handling the determination of the minimum qualifications. I told Ms. Gaston that the outside agency could not accurately determine my minimum qualifications based upon the application solely. Ms. Gaston informed me that another candidate tried to submit a resume for this process and she would not accept it. I asked Ms. Gaston a very pointed question. If I did not meet the minimum qualifications, then why was I fingerprinted, my background investigation started, the supplemental questions emailed to me, which I completed and turned in, and scheduled for an oral board interview if I was not qualified? Ms. Gaston’s answer to me was, “I never said you were qualified.” My statement to Ms. Gaston was if you have a candidate fingerprinted, go through a partial background, complete supplemental questions, and schedule them for an oral board interview, that would indicate to the candidate that they were qualified. When I asked Ms. Gaston why all these tasks were completed if I was not qualified, she told me she was trying to “hurry the process along.” Why would you hurry a process along for a crucial and important position as chief of police?

It is important to note at this point, the minimum qualifications for the job of police chief that were outlined in the ad the Town of Superior placed on the Arizona League of Cities and Towns and the AZ POST website included the following terminology, “including seven (7) years supervisory experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.” I have two (2) years of supervisory experience as a Sergeant with Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department and an equivalent combination of education and experience over the last 24 years. Had the Town of Superior and the assist agency asked for my resume, they would determined I met the minimum qualifications.

I contacted Sherry Williams in the Human Resources Department at the Arizona Department of Public Safety by telephone on Jan. 22, 2014, as they are the assist agency to the Town of Superior in conducting this hiring process. Sherry informed me they determined I did not meet the minimum qualification of seven years supervisory experience based solely upon my application. When asked, she advised me DPS had made that determination that day shortly before Ms. Gaston emailed me and informed me I was not qualified. She said” she thought” the town was looking for the full range of supervision abilities and cited discipline and approving days off as the criteria and that she did not believe my combination of education and experience satisfied that requirement.

On Jan. 23, 2014, I emailed Sherry Williams at DPS and explained to her if the Town of Superior is going to include a minimum qualification in the position advertisement that states “or an equivalent combination of education and experience”, I believe this cannot be properly evaluated using the application only. This combination should come from a combination of a resume and oral board.

I spoke with Sherry Williams again by telephone on Jan. 27, 2014. When asked, Ms. Williams said she made the determination if I met the minimum qualifications by my application only and she said equivalent combination of education and experience was not what the Town of Superior was looking for. Ms. Williams said it was my responsibility to include all the information on my application so they could make a determination if I met the minimum qualifications. I explained to Ms. Williams that the application does not provide a space for applicants to add their education and experience. She stated that it does. I asked her to tell me where. She couldn’t. Ms. Williams said, “I’m sure it’s on there.” I explained to her that I had my application right in front of me and there is absolutely no area for applicants to include that information. She then explained that it says on the application that applicants may attach additional information to the application. When I asked her where it said that, she said she didn’t know. It should be noted, it does not say that on the application. This is where a resume and oral board interview would be crucial. It should also be noted I have applied for other positions in law enforcement through DPS and they have an additional supplemental sheet where candidates list their education, training, and experience so DPS Human Resources can make an accurate determination of a candidate’s abilities to meet the minimum qualifications. Why wasn’t this process used in the chief of police process since DPS is the assist agency to the Town of Superior in this endeavor?

I then asked Ms. Williams why the Town of Superior didn’t want to oral board all eight candidates that have applied for this position. Ms. Williams said it’s not fair to oral board a candidate that doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications, like myself, because it’s not fair to the people that didn’t apply for the position. I explained to Ms. Williams that eight oral board interviews could be accomplished in one day at no cost to the Town of Superior and would give the board a wide range of candidates to choose from.

I emailed Mayor Jayme Valenzuela on Jan. 23, 2014 and asked him how the town made the determination I did not meet the minimum qualifications for this position without the assistance of my resume and oral board interview. I resent this email to the mayor and Margaret Gaston on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 as I did not get a reply on this email from Mayor Valenzuela. I asked to meet with Ms. Gaston and Mayor Valenzuela sometime during the week of Jan. 27 – Jan. 31, 2014 to discuss this issue. As of the writing of this letter on Feb. 1, 2014, I have not heard from either Mayor Valenzuela or Ms. Gaston.

Some questions have come up from this experience:

• Why would the Town of Superior, specifically Margaret Gaston, put me through fingerprinting, a partial background investigation, have me complete supplemental questions, and schedule me for an oral board interview if I was not qualified?

• Why was this determination made after all these tasks were completed? Why wasn’t it made early in the process before I completed all these tasks? They have had my application since the beginning of December 2013.

• Why was the process “hurried along”?

• Where did the determination of seven years of supervisory experience come from? Why not two? Why not five? Why not 10? My contention to that is this … You may have two candidates, one with two years of experience and one with 10 years of experience. You may find through an oral board interview that just because a candidate has more experience does not mean they are an effective leader. It just means they held a position for that time. Period.

I felt it important to get this information to the public. This hiring process is flawed and surely casts doubt on the effectiveness of our town manager, Margaret Gaston. I wish I would have had the opportunity to interview. I would have outlined my unique skills and ability and the countless accomplishments over my 24 year career. Not to mention the fact that I live in Superior, we have family there and a child in school. We are soon to be business owners and care a great deal about our community. I spent countless hours preparing for this process from attending town council meetings, meeting with concerned citizens, meeting with the interim police chief, Sgt. Ed McNeill, meetings with my vast network of law enforcement contacts though out the state, to include retired chiefs of police who pledged their support to me should I be hired for this position.

/s/ Lori Ketron


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