SPANISH FORK — The mayor and City Council have fired longtime Police Chief Dee Rosenbaum, even though they believe he is innocent of allegations that cost him his peace officer certification.
The city's elected officials met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss options, five days after a police standards review committee determined that the chief shoplifted clothing at the Provo Towne Center in 2010 and then lied about it to investigators. Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training revoked his police certification for four years.
"The mayor and council unanimously feel Chief Rosenbaum is innocent of the allegations brought and fully support him," Assistant City Manager Seth Perrins wrote in a prepared statement issued Wednesday.
"Nonetheless, the mayor and council feel that it is in the best interest of the city to release Chief Rosenbaum from his duties," Perrins said. "Chief Rosenbaum, though innocent and qualified, was unanimously released" and is no longer employed by the city.
"The city wishes Chief Rosenbaum and his family the best and thanks him for over 34 years of service to this community," he wrote. Rosenbaum was chief for 25 years.
Perrins said Rosenbaum was present for the beginning and the end of the closed meeting Tuesday evening and "he accepted their decision."
Utah's open meetings law allows public bodies to discuss the "character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an individual," but requires final actions to take place in an open meeting, raising the question about whether the city followed the law when it terminated the chief during its closed session Tuesday night.
"It sounds like the action they took would require an open meeting," said media attorney Jeff Hunt. "The law requires any actions taken by a public body to be made in public session."
City Attorney S. Junior Baker did not respond to a request for a response about the way the city terminated Rosenbaum. Baker has been critical of the POST council's investigation and conclusion, writing in a letter the day before last week's hearing that the POST investigation was procedurally defective.
The city did not criticize the process that led to Rosenbaum's decertification but did disagree with its findings. The city plans to begin accepting applications for the position of public safety director and police chief on Friday.
Rosenbaum was accused of attempting to shoplift at the Provo Dillard's store on June 5, 2010. He brought two bags into the store with him, including a used Dillard's bag, and put three pairs of pants inside.
Store surveillance video showed that Rosenbaum appeared to be looking around the store before placing clothing in the bag as if he were surveying the scene. The police chief never left the store before he was stopped and questioned by a security guard.
Rosenbaum admitted he appeared suspicious in the video and used "poor judgement," but denied any intent to shoplift. The video and his subsequent statements convinced an administrative law judge that Rosenbaum committed theft, a POST report states. The city prosecutor of Provo reviewed the case but declined to file any criminal charges.