UPDATE | Commander Shultz had expected to stay on with department, work through allegations of mistreatment of female officers, before sudden resignation
By RICHARD D. OXLEY
Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer
December 14, 2012 · 12:30 PM
Bainbridge Island Police Commander Sue Shultz will remain on administrative leave until her official final day of employment on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
Shultz resigned from her post as the city's top commissioned officer Friday.
Her resignation letter from the Bainbridge Island Police Department was delivered to city officials Friday morning.
A separation agreement will be developed for the commander, according to City Manager Doug Schulze.
"There's a separation agreement that we are working through," Schulze said.
"There will be a pretty minor agreement, no details have been completed yet," he said.
Shultz came to the Bainbridge police department in 2007 from the Bremerton Police Department, where she was a lead investigator. She was promoted to the position of commander in 2010.
City officials have said that there are currently no plans to fill the position of police commander.
The resignation by a high-level Bainbridge police officer was the second in four months. Jon Fehlman resigned as the department's police chief in September.
Fehlman, the city's police chief since 2009, stepped down from his post Sept. 15.
Like Shultz, Fehlman resigned in the aftermath of an outside investigation that was prompted by allegations made by members of the city's police union.
The Bainbridge Island Police Guild had accused Fehlman of mismanagement and questioned his integrity. An outside investigation found the union's claims largely unfounded, and a separate investigation by Kitsap County authorities found no instances of wrongdoing on Fehlman's part.
Shultz resigned the day after an outside investigation was released on allegations made by two female members of the police guild, who claimed Shultz had treated them more harshly than male members of the police force because they were women.
The report on the outside investigation, conducted by Seabold Group, a Seattle-based firm that conducts workplace investigations, was released by the city late Thursday.
According to the report, the firm interviewed 18 witnesses, including the two women who made the allegations, all four lieutenants on the force, and several former and current police officers and employees.
Interim City Manager Morgan Smith was also interviewed, as well as the director of human resources, Interim Public Safety Director Larry Dickerson, and Dr. Ted Rosenbaum, the police department's psychologist.
Shultz, the target of the investigation, was also questioned.
The investigation found that Shultz "on a rather consistent basis" treated the two women who had filed the complaint more harshly, or held them to a higher standard, than male officers or lieutenants in similar circumstances.
The investigation could not find conclusive evidence of gender bias, however.
"The evidence regarding intentional gender bias is inconclusive," Norberg said in her report.
"It is clear that Cmdr. Shultz and [complainant] and to a lesser degree, [other complainant], have had strained working relationships for several years, but there also is substantial evidence that Cmdr. Shultz' management style and interactions with the complainants are related to a combination of factors other than gender bias," she continued.
Those factors, Norberg said, included a lack of supervisory experience, but also "a lack of cohesion at the command level, including among the lieutenants, that contributed to an 'us versus them' perception" in the police department.
The investigator also said Shultz was unable to keep her differences between her and one of the complainants "at the professional level and not make them personal."
In a written response to the report, Shultz said the allegations of negative treatment toward female officers were unfounded and that the investigator failed to question others who could back up Shultz's version of events.
Shultz noted that both of the women who had complained had also sought the commander's job did not score well on the test and were passed over, which left the pair "quite disgruntled."
"There is no recognized motive for me to treat either of these women more negatively than others," Shultz wrote. "In my 25 years of law enforcement, I have never been accused of or mistreated a fellow officer or subordinate employee."
Shultz also recalled the problems she faced when she joined the Bainbridge Island Police Department as a new officer in April 2007.
"I was identified as the newcomer. There were identified attempts to sabotage my success within the department and I have faced them with my head held high, always looking toward the future," she wrote in a Dec. 10 response to the allegations to the city manager.
In the letter, Shultz indicated she wanted to stay on with the Bainbridge department.
"Challenges are an opportunity to show what the employee can do and how professional they can be when facing a storm," she wrote. "I am seeing the allegations of negatively treating two employees as a challenge, one that I can successfully work through.
"I am looking forward to returning to the office of Commander for the Bainbridge Island Police Department and providing you an opportunity to view the very best work I can achieve."
Bainbridge Review writer Brian Kelly contributed to this report.
Contact Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer Richard D. Oxley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 842-6613.