Police chief in the dark about firing

By Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate September 09, 2013 05:58 pm

Tribal Council not talking about why McQuillen was fired

Former Yurok Police Chief Mary McQuillen was at a boat ramp on the Klamath River on Aug. 23 when she got a call that she needed to head to the Yurok Tribal Council’s main office immediately.

She inquired about the reason and the caller, a tribal employee, at first reluctant to explain over the phone, finally stated that Council Chairman Thomas O’Rourke wanted her resignation by 5 p.m., McQuillen said this week.

She wasn’t going to resign, the tribe would have to fire her, McQuillen recalled saying. She was in her third year as chief and had previously spent 25 years in law enforcement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

She said she got a call back a couple of hours later informing her the paperwork was ready for her termination, so she headed to the tribe’s main office and turned in her weapon and badge.

She said she was given a letter of termination that provided no explanation. She was also handed a report of performance given upon separation of employment with the tribe.

McQuillen provided the Triplicate with copies of both.

The performance report shows she was evaluated as outstanding in all the categories marked except one, which was marked above average. The categories included skill, knowledge, initiative and attitude, supervisory ability, administrative ability and quantity of work.

“I said, ‘This is crazy, you’re giving me an outstanding rating and you’re firing me,’” said McQuillen, who was the eighth Yurok police chief in the past 11 years.

Yurok spokesman Matt Mais said the Tribal Council would have no comment on McQuillen’s firing.

She said she remains unclear as to why she was fired, but suspects it could be her defiance of some of the Council’s demands, which she said were unreasonable with the resources the Tribal Police have.

The Council wanted an officer permanently placed near the southern boundary of the fishing line on the Klamath River, which McQuillen deemed impossible with five officers — two of whom lack boating safety training.

The Council was also pushing to have certain individuals hired   who were underqualified for law enforcement, McQuillen said.

At the time, the Tribal Police force was down two officers, who had been placed on administrative leave following an officer-involved shooting Aug. 17 at the Klamath Salmon Festival. The officers had been placed on leave as standard protocol while the District Attorney’s Office and Bureau of Indian Affairs investigated the shots fired at a fleeing suspect’s vehicle. 

McQuillen said she was being pressured to bring back the officers before the investigations were complete.

“What the tribe wants is a police chief that is willing to jeopardize the integrity of the department and I specifically said that I would not jeopardize the integrity of the department,” said McQuillen.

Yurok Tribal attorney Charles Henry stated the bureau investigation  concluded last week,  and the officers have been taken off administrative leave. The District Attorney’s Office investigation is ongoing.

A day after McQuillen was fired, Leonard Masten was appointed as interim Tribal Police chief. Masten is the husband of Tribal Council Vice-Chairperson Susan Masten.

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