A lawyer representing Alpine's former police chief says the settlement between the chief and the city hasn't been signed yet because of a "conflict in calendars."
But Lynn Lund, the attorney representing the city, says he's holding up the agreement because there "seem to be some things going on that violate the agreement."Specifically, Lund said, former Police Chief Brent Leseberg apparently is involved with a petition to reinstate him and allow residents to vote on his termination.
"I find that an interesting observation," said George E. Brown, Leseberg's attorney. "I don't think Brent is spearheading any effort pertaining to this citizens initiative. I think it's just people in the community doing it themselves. Even if Brent were involved it wouldn't be a violation of the agreement."
Leseberg and city officials are prohibited only from discussing events leading up to Leseberg's termination, Brown said.
Leseberg said he's "not at all involved" in referendum efforts. Whether he's involved or not may be a moot point.
On Friday, the city rejected a referendum request because Leseberg's termination was an administrative rather than legislative action, City Clerk Mari Strong said.
State election law says referendums and petitions may be initiated only to enact or reject laws, ordinances or legislative resolutions before the legislation takes effect.
Resident John Anderson, who is spearheading the referendum movement, believes residents ought to "have the right to accept or reject anything our elected officials do."
Alpine Mayor Elaine Barnes fired Leseberg Oct. 31, saying the action was in the city's best interest. Leseberg worked for Alpine for more than 12 years. Later, Barnes said she terminated Leseberg because of low morale in the Police Department, accountability to the City Council, poor judgment on Leseberg's part and other problems.
The agreement worked out between the city and Leseberg on Nov. 27 allows him to resign and to receive accrued vacation and overtime pay and continued medical coverage for up to six months.
Many Alpine residents are unhappy about Leseberg's termination, the lack of specific information about why he was terminated and the way the matter was handled by the city.
Lund says residents should blame the silence surrounding the matter on him.
"I've counseled and advised (the council) every step of the way, and they have followed my advice to their political detriment," Lund said. "The city has nothing to hide, and it is not a personality conflict between the mayor and chief of police."
Some residents hoped to take matters into their own hands via the petition for a vote. However, now that the city has rejected the referendum, residents have two options, according to Lt. Gov. Val Oveson's office: Pursue a district court ruling on whether the city acted appropriately in rejecting the referendum request, or express their opinion on the city's action during the next municipal election.
Because the next mayoral election is three years away, Anderson and his wife, Marilyn, will pursue a court ruling on whether the city appropriately rejected the referendum.
"There are too many people who want this done for me to stop now," said Marilyn Anderson.