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Bainbridge city hall seeks outside investigation into police chief

City of Bainbridge Island officials are considering launching an outside investigation into allegations made against Police Chief Jon Fehlman by his fellow officers.

The move comes after the Bainbridge Island Police Guild took a vote of "no confidence" in Fehlman on Monday and submitted a letter filled with numerous accusations about poor management decisions, misuse of his police SUV, failure to follow city policies and a "lack of connection to the community."

Fehlman was appointed chief in 2009, and the guild's list of complaints includes claims of inappropriate activities that date back to his first year in the job.

"We have received some complaints from the police guild about Chief Jon Fehlman," Interim City Manager Morgan Smith told the city council at its meeting Wednesday night. "And we are looking into bringing in an outside investigator to assess those."

The council's reaction was minimal, and the announcement did not prompt any extended public discussion from council members on the matter.

In the past the city has had investigations performed on its own officers. In such instances, another policing agency such as the Washington State Patrol has been asked to carry out the investigation.

Shortly after the shooting of Douglas Ostling by a Bainbridge officer in October 2010, Fehlman asked Kitsap County to investigate the killing.

Fehlman, who is currently suffering from pancreatitis, has been on sick leave since mid-May, leaving Commander Sue Shultz in charge of the department.

In its announcement that the guild was not supportive of the Fehlman's leadership of the department, guild president Lt. Bob Day asked the council to have Fehlman removed from his post, although, under Bainbridge's council-manager form of government, the council does not have the authority to fire any employees other than the city manager.

Several council members contacted before Wednesday's council meeting declined to discuss the guild vote.

Mayor Debbi Lester did not respond to calls for comment.

Councilman Steve Bonkowski, however, hinted that an examination of the guild's claims was warranted.

"The allegations were pretty significant and I think that from a personal standpoint and a city council standpoint, I would want to know if the allegations are true or not," Bonkowski said. "And if they are I would be very distressed and would certainly ask the city manager what she intends to do about this."

But the first thing we have to do is make a determination if the allegations are true or not because I honestly don't know," he said.

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