Mammoth Lakes Police Chief Randy Schienle held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to attempt to clear up what he felt were vicious rumors about himself and his department that have been circulating throughout the community for the past two years.
Every officer not on duty, as well as Schienle’s wife and daughter, Mayor Wendy Sugimura, Councilmember Skip Harvey and Fire Chief Brent Harper sat behind him in Suite Z.
“If I told you I had been looking forward to this afternoon, I’d be lying,” began Schienle, who distributed an eight-page statement that he read.
A series of alleged wrongdoings by the Chief and subsequent investigations made it necessary for Schienle to walk through each accusation one by one in his attempt to clear his name.
Over the past two years, Schienle and the MLPD have gone through three investigations with a fourth under way at this time. This string of investigations has led to an investigation by the Mono County Grand Jury, currently in progress. The findings of the Grand Jury are expected to be made public about June 30. Schienle was unable to discuss any ongoing investigations, but he did comment on the three that had been completed.
The first followed the departure of Steve Searles, the Town’s Wildlife Specialist, from the police department. Complaints were made that Schienle had wrongfully fired Searles and then destroyed his personnel file. Schienle stated that at the end of the investigation the complaint was deemed to be without merit, and he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Schienle reiterated that he has never destroyed anyone’s personnel files, including Searles’, and added that anyone claiming he had was misrepresenting the truth.
[inset side=right]In August of last year, an individual that Schienle did not name went to Town Manager Rob Clark and complained that this affair was going on while Schienle was on-duty, which led to the second internal investigation.[/inset]The second investigation dealt with an alleged affair he had with a woman in town named Judy Olson. According to Schienle, the rumor was started by Mammoth local Joe Parrino when he told Mrs. Olson’s husband, Eric Olson, that an affair was going on. In August of last year, an individual that Schienle did not name went to Town Manager Rob Clark and complained that this affair was going on while Schienle was on-duty, which led to the second internal investigation. According to Schienle, the investigation came back with the same results as the first – unfounded and without merit.
The third investigation began when Schienle was accused of covering up information regarding an incident that happened with his officers during this year’s Baker to Vegas Relay, an annual event in which the MLPD participates. Schienle stated that he had already put the wheels in motion for an internal investigation before the complaint that he was trying to cover up what had happened was made. The third investigation into the Police Chief again came back as being without merit, Schienle said.
Currently an investigation is being made into two police officers who were not only involved in a bar fight at Rusty’s in Bishop, but who were also allegedly involved in the incident in Las Vegas as well as a tasering incident that occurred at the Village at Mammoth. The Rusty’s incident was investigated by the Bishop Police Department which submitted its case to the Inyo County District Attorney for review last week. The tasering incident resulted in an ongoing lawsuit against the Town of Mammoth Lakes, therefore Schienle was unable to comment on the officers’ involvement, he said.
For the most part the room was full of MLPD supporters who were ready to put all of this behind them. The Mammoth Lakes Peace Officers Association also stated its support for the Chief and his decisions. Members of the public reprimanded the Mammoth Lakes Town Council, especially members Neil McCarroll and John Eastman, for their immediate decision to apologize to the City of Bishop after the Rusty’s incident since the investigation was still under way and no blame had yet been officially placed.
Schienle ended the press conference by stating his opinion that all of this got started when he had his breakdown in communication with Searles two years ago. Schienle pointed to that breakdown as his biggest regret, but hoped that the press conference would start to rebuild the reputation of the MLPD.