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Neves leaves Lincoln Jan. 21

City needs to decide how to replace him
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Interim Police Chief Joel Neves’ last day on the job is in two weeks. Who will replace him is unknown at this time. Neves’ last day in Lincoln is Jan. 21. Lincoln’s top cop since May 2010, Neves was hired by the city after former Police Chief Brian Vizzusi left the city on Feb. 18, 2010 for never-released reasons by the city. Neves retired as Roseville’s police chief in Sept. 2007, and as a retired employee, can only work 960 hours per year, according to previous News Messenger reports. “I’ve really enjoyed working here and I think we’ve made a lot of improvements during this difficult time the police department and city faces,” Neves said. “I have mixed feelings because I feel like I’m leaving in the middle of this crisis.” City Manager Jim Estep told The News Messenger on Dec. 9 that there are three options after Neves leaves. One option is to promote an existing police department employee or assign someone within the department as an interim police chief, according to Estep. The city could also recruit a new permanent police chief or hire another outside interim police chief, Estep said. Those are still the options, according to Estep on Monday. The News Messenger asked Estep what direction the city should take. Estep said his recommendation would be included in the staff report for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where options for Lincoln’s next police chief will be considered. “It would be inappropriate for me to give you a recommendation, prior to giving it to the City Council,” Estep said. The decision about whether the city hires a permanent or interim police chief, or uses existing staff to fill the position is up to City Council, according to Estep. Councilman Spencer Short said he would fill the position. “I think it’s important that the police department have a chief, period. A chief officer is necessary,” Short said. “I think that we need to find the right person to give the right type of leadership at this time, however that is to be filled.” Councilman Tom Cosgrove has a different viewpoint. “The last time, I was the lone vote to not go outside and work internally,” Cosgrove said. “I think we can keep our costs down and use the resources we have. We have people that are capable and talented that can get us through.” Hiring a permanent police chief would come after the city has a two-tiered pension system in place if it was up to Cosgrove. He would also not like to see an interim chief hired. “I have nothing but the most respect for Chief Neves and I think the time he spent with us was good for the department,” Cosgrove said. “I still feel we should be able to handle it with folks on board and keep the costs down.” Councilman Stan Nader said his “preference would be to use existing staff for the costs savings.” “I’m looking for someone that will take his department and make them work as a team,” Nader said. “It’s important to me that we carry on what Joel (Neves) has built in the few months that he has been here. I don’t want to see what he’s done be undone.” Councilman Gabriel Hydrick also doesn’t want to hire a new interim or permanent police chief. “I don’t think we should hire a new one just yet,” Hydrick said. Hydrick said he would like to see the city deal with a $3 million investment loss that was allocated to the General Fund instead of across all of the city’s other funds. The police department is funded out of the General Fund. “Hopefully we can get the $3 million cleared up, see where we stand financially and get the police department organized,” Hydrick said. When asked how the city should proceed after Neves leaves, Mayor Paul Joiner did not answer. He said that answering would violate the Brown Act because it “could be perceived as inadvertently creating the first link in a serial meeting of council.” “A serial meeting is a series of communications, each of which involves less than a quorum, but which taken as a whole, involves a majority of the body’s members,” Joiner explained. According to Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, Joiner answering The News Messenger’s question is not a violation of the Brown Act since The News Messenger did not share responses from council members with the others.