San Diego Police Chief Bill Kolender admitted Friday that he and other high-ranking department officials used a uniformed police officer during working hours in 1980 and 1981 to run personal errands, including taking Kolender's children to the dentist and doctor.
The admission came as City Manager John Lockwood, after meeting with Mayor Maureen O'Connor, said he would investigate possible improprieties committed by Kolender and his top assistants.
The charges against Kolender were contained in a voluminous complaint filed Thursday by attorney Patrick J. Thistle with the city's Civil Service Commission. Hoping to show that the Police Department harasses officers who pursue disability claims, Thistle included a 58-page diary kept by Officer Jeanne Taylor, who was transferred to Kolender's office for "light duty" after sustaining a work-related accident. Taylor retired earlier this year on a disability pension.
In uniform and armed, Taylor was assigned to Kolender's office, theoretically to guard against hostile visitors and to answer telephone calls. But the complaint alleges that she felt degraded because she was used as a go-fer by Kolender and his assistant chiefs.
Taylor's diary alleges that she was used to pick up people from the airport, transport lunches to the police firing range, get prescriptions and mail a tax return. She picked up birthday cards, sports equipment, popcorn, coffee cups and laundry.
At Kolender's bidding, the former officer wrote, she drove his wife, Lois, to a date; picked up the chief's Halloween costume from Grossmont Center; delivered wedding and bar mitzvah gifts to Kolender family friends; picked up Chargers' tickets for friends; went Christmas shopping for Kolender; dropped off Kolender's electric shaver for repairs; used a Police Department van to pick up a painting of Kolender, and routinely deposited the chief's paychecks at the former California Heritage Bank on 5th Avenue.
In her entry for Jan. 23, 1981, Taylor wrote that she went to the firing range for Kolender to pick up a package of .38-caliber shells for delivery to the chief's "friend John from the Old Ox."
Taylor also records on at least four occasions that she transported Kolender's children to medical appointments. One errand was a three-hour trip to pick up Kolender's son at high school and take him to the dentist to have a tooth pulled.
She also wrote that Kolender warned her not to tell anyone about what kind of assignments she was given.
Lockwood declined Friday to say which of the allegations he considered the most serious.
But a source at City Hall said that among the allegations Lockwood was most concerned with were chauffeuring Kolender's children, supplying bullets to a friend, fetching department film for the personal use of Assistant Chief Bob Burgreen, and the routine depositing of Kolender's paychecks.
In addition to Lockwood's investigation, the Civil Service Commission may begin its own probe of the allegations by Taylor, a commissioner said.
"The commission as a whole has not specifically discussed this matter yet," said David Lewis, the commissioner and a local political consultant. "Certainly, from the preliminary indications that I have received as to what the document contains, I would imagine and I would personally urge the commission to go forward with some kind of investigation.
"From the news accounts that I've seen, it appears that there's been some misuse of classified personnel and that would put it under the purview of the commission. I would imagine that in this case, the Civil Service Commission could investigate and probably turn its findings over to the city manager and some other appropriate authority."
Kolender and Burgreen both admitted Friday that Taylor performed some of their personal errands, characterizing their past requests as "indefensible."
They said that, effective immediately, they will no longer make similar requests of the uniformed officers currently assigned to Kolender's office.
Both men said, however, that several of the allegations by Taylor were either unjustified or untrue.
Kolender said he didn't tell Taylor to pick up a friend and his dog for a ride to a pet hotel, and he couldn't remember asking her to deliver police bullets to another friend. He said he didn't have her pick up the football tickets.
Both men said they considered it proper for Taylor to drive them to the airport on city business, since they would have to pay parking fees out of the city treasury.
They also said they see nothing wrong with sending an officer to hand-deliver important reports or letters to the city manager's office at City Hall, or pick up the chief's wife for a police function.
"Even today, he (an officer) has picked up Lois if I have a function," Kolender said. "I don't think that's wrong."
Kolender admitted, however, that he used Taylor several times to pick up his children for medical appointments during 1980--what he called a "different period of my life."