May 25 Editoria: Bruce Ludwig and City Manager Bob Francis should work out their differences

May 25, 2011

Police Chief Bruce Ludwig will meet with City Manager Bob Francis Friday to talk about Ludwig's employment future.

Ludwig might be let go or be put back on as full-time police chief, or he could choose to resign. Francis said Friday the result will depend on whether Ludwig can show Francis the two men are not in wide disagreement over "management goals and philosophies," which, according to Ludwig, was the reason Francis gave him in placing Ludwig on leave May 12.

(Notably, Ludwig has placed himself further into the public eye with his announcement May 20 that he plans to run for Hood River County Sheriff in May 2012.)

Francis said Monday that Ludwig has been placed on administrative leave for a personnel matter, not the other way around, but he declined to elaborate, saying that it is in the city's, as well as Ludwig's, interests to reserve comment.

Francis also notes that Ludwig has publicly stated he has consulted an attorney, making him, Francis, guarded about public comment on the situation.

However, without a better reason for setting Ludwig on the sidelines beyond differing "management goals and philosophies," Francis should send Ludwig back to work as chief.

What does "differing management goals and philosophies" actually mean?

The phrase, which is all Francis has publicly acknowledged, seems either euphemistic or intentionally vague. In any case, but especially that of a public safety employee, clear language is important. Ludwig should be put back to work.

Francis stated that there is "no formal investigation" of any kind on any of Ludwig's actions as police chief.

Were employees or the public at risk because Ludwig had some differing views or priorities? If so, the public should be clued in, not kept guessing.

If there are personnel matters that make it impossible for Ludwig to do the job of police chief, that won't be changed by a Friday sit-down in which Ludwig somehow convinces Francis they are on the same management philosophy page.

The administrative leave action is a nebulous one. Ludwig is not being accused of wrong-doing. The reason for his limbo status is vague and undefined. It all raises more questions than it answers.

Certainly a rift between a police chief and a superior is a serious matter, and it is understandable if the city is genuinely unable to discuss the situation; rules pertaining to personnel are there for a reason.

Except there had apparently been no pending reprimand or penalty precipitating Ludwig's placement on leave, so what is to discuss beyond what appears to be a personality conflict?

If Bob Francis and Bruce Ludwig differ on goals and objectives for the police department, it's a matter of public interest.

The best thing for Francis and Ludwig to talk about Friday is how they can work out their differences and move on, together, to more important business.

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