MONTEREY PARK — Police Chief Jon Elder has been on leave for more than two weeks because of stress-connected health problems that the mayor says could be related to pressure from some City Council members.
Deputy Chief Robert Collins said Elder has experienced stomach problems and sleeplessness and quoted Elder, who has been off work since Aug. 5, as attributing his ill health to stress. He remains on salary, which is $66,408 a year.
Elder, who has been police chief for 10 years, was unavailable for comment.
Collins, who acts as chief in Elder's absence, said doctors have advised Elder not to take any job-related telephone calls.
Collins said the chief did not tell him the cause of the stress, but Mayor G. Monty Manibog, who praised Elder's contributions to the city, said that it is a "good guess" that Elder has been feeling pressure from some City Council members.
Manibog would not explain or describe the actions that he believes may have caused a problem for the chief.
He said he has written a lengthy memo to fellow council members describing the problem, but declined to disclose what he wrote. He said he hopes the council can address the question in a closed personnel session.
Other city officials, who asked not to be identified, said that Elder may have been under some pressure from council members Barry L. Hatch and Pat Reichenberger, who were elected in April over candidates backed by the city police officers association.
Hatch said he has not brought any unusual pressure to bear on the chief.
He said he has looked into the Police Department's handling of traffic enforcement and other matters, but his inquiries have not been unusual.
He said he has treated other departments the same way. "I'm into every department asking questions," Hatch said.
The councilman said most of his inquiries have been directed through the city manager and that he has "never really had an across-the-desk conversation" with Elder. He said he is in no position to evaluate Elder's job performance.
Reichenberger, who apparently is on vacation, could not be reached for comment.
David P. Bentz, city director of management services, said that Elder has filed a report of occupational injury with the city, but declined to disclose information from the report, saying it is a confidential personnel matter. The report is required whenever any employee is injured on the job, Bentz said.
Elder, 49, has been on the police force for 27 years.
To be compensated for the injury, Elder would have to file a worker's compensation claim, which would set in motion the process of evaluating the extent of the injury and whether it was caused by the job.
Bentz said that Elder could return to work at any time or not at all, depending on the results of medical examinations.
Manibog called Elder dedicated, innovative, well-liked and a very effective chief.
"I feel very badly," Manibog said. "I hope (his leave) will be only temporary."