Behind the scenes, reports indicate that the ongoing strife between Mammoth Police Chief Randy Schienle and popular bear man Steve Searles has become so bad that the town hired a private investigator to sort it all out.
In spite of this, the public stance from the Town Council this week was that Searles and the town would part ways because Searles wouldn’t accept the contracts that staff had offered.
At the meeting this week Councilmember Wendy Sugimura heaped on the praise for the bear man, saying that she was impressed with his community pride. The councilmember said, Steve does a fantastic job and is a great asset to the community.
Then came the anticipated but. Sugimura said that during negotiations, Searles refused all job offers from the town and that there were no more legally available options.
Mayor Skip Harvey followed, reading from a sheet of paper, that said that the town had hired an investigator to look into the history of the bear management program and that this action does not imply that improper actions occurred.
The discussion was not on the agenda and appeared to come out of nowhere. The council members did not ask for comments from the public or from Searles who was standing in the crowded room.
From what was said at the council meeting it appears that the lawyers have taken over the situation, leaving one to question what is actually going on with the bear management program in Mammoth?
In the meantime national media has focused on Searles and the bear program in Mammoth. The LA Times story on Searles and the Mammoth bears was picked up by the Boston Globe, and other news papers. National Public Radio ran a piece on Searles this week. ABC came to town this week interviewed Mayor Skip Harvey and Searles about the bears. A crew from Australia is slated to come to town next week as well.