WARRENTON - Bob Maxfield dealt with several contentious, and at times embarrassing, controversies during his tenure as chief of the Aberdeen, Wash., police department.
In the last years Maxfield was in Washington, the new chief of the Warrenton police department had one of his captains file a lengthy list of complaints against him and the department. Another captain was arrested for domestic assault. And on top of that, several of his officers have been named in excessive force lawsuits.
But Maxfield stayed put, and survived each of the department's flare ups while he maintained the support of Aberdeen's mayor and City Council.
That ability to effectively deal with controversy, impressed Warrenton's City Manager Scott Derickson.
He said during his career in government it's not a question of "will issues arise?" but when. And he said in the interview process he felt Maxfield successfully demonstrated that he had learned in dealing with a bitter
fight with a former employee and an embarrassing incident with one on his force.
"Part of being an experienced individual means having to deal with issues," he said.
And an exhaustive background check performed by the Clatsop County Sheriff's Department found nothing in Maxfield's history that Derickson said would prevent Warrenton from hiring him.
Maxfield will start in Warrenton in late September.
In October 2002 the Aberdeen-based newspaper, The Daily World, reported that the city of Aberdeen and John Delia reached a $550,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by Delia.
The former police captain contended that Maxfield had forced him to leave the department by sticking him behind a desk in a position below his experience and harassing him; Maxfield said Delia was an "adequate" employee at best who didn't deserve anything.
Both men squared off in a long and contentious battle that went as far back as 1997 that saw Maxfield cleared of any wrong doing by a state patrol investigation of Delia's claims. These included fraud, misconduct and misuse of city funds. Yet Delia sued the city and had been seeking for $1.6 million before he agreed to settle for $550,000.
Throughout the fight, Maxfield had the support of the city's mayor, Mike Wilson.
Maxfield said Delia had always resented his being transferred from the department's investigations department to special assignments. He said it was more work with greater challenges, but Delia didn't see it that way.
"He (Delia) wanted his pound of flesh and he wanted to get back at me because I was still in the position of chief," he said.
Some of the claims also made by Delia suggested that another captain, Mike Haymon, had a problem with alcohol and had actually come to work after drinking a few times.
The allegations came after an incident in 1999 when Haymon had come to a police standoff with a suicidal man after he had been drinking.
Maxfield says he suspended Haymon for that and had him evaluated by a psychologist to see if he was an alcoholic. That evaluation came back negative, but Maxfield said he gave Haymon a breathalyzer test every day in the morning then randomly during a six-month period and determined he was not coming to work in the morning after drinking.
But according to police reports reviewed by the Aberdeen newspaper, Haymon had been drinking May 31 when officers knocked on the door of his home to discuss reports of a loud argument and glass breaking. They then reportedly found the man's wife with a bruised eye and arrested Haymon for domestic violence and malicious mischief.
The arrest rocked the department and as it came in the wake of the murder-suicide of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame and his wife, the small city of Aberdeen became crowded with Seattle television news vans.
Maxfield said Haymon should go to trial next month in which the future of his career in law enforcement will be decided.
"Law enforcement is a tough business and it really takes a toll on people," Maxfield said, adding that police officers cannot let that stress take over themselves.
He said that the past events he's had to deal with as chief in Aberdeen, as well as two lawsuits against his officers accused of excessive force that he says are unfounded, have taught him to take an "introspective" look at the issues that cross his desk and try and tackle them early.
One of those cases is ongoing, and Maxfield said the other, in which two off-duty officers arrested a man who had reportedly taunted them, really just came down to one mistake. Maxfield said the two officers stopped the man by driving a pick-up truck up on to the street in front of him. The individual sued the city and won about, $25,000, Maxfield said - far less than what he had originally asked sought.
"I stood by the officers there and I'm standing by the officers in another lawsuit because they did the right thing," he said.
But, he said, the problems he encountered in Aberdeen helped convince him that when he turned 50 he should take advantage of his Washington public employee retirement benefits and retire from his post as chief and look for something else.
"I felt it would be in my interest to move on," he said.
Now Maxfield said he's looking forward to what he calls a terrific staff in Warrenton and bringing some of the hard lessons he learned in Aberdeen to work.
"You kind of learn by doing, you don't always know the exact thing to do," he said. "I think I've gone through some really tough issues."