Throughout the Labor Day holiday, when all other city governments were taking the day off, San Clemente's officials spent 12 hours in a hearing on the ouster of Police Chief Kelson McDaniel.
No decision was announced when the hearing ended about 10 p.m. Monday.
Retired state Court of Appeal Justice Robert E. Rickles, presiding officer at the hearing, said he will issue a written opinion within the next week.
The opinion will not be formally binding, but City Manager James B. Hendrickson said it will be considered as the city decides what to do.
Monday's hearing was charged with emotion during the airing of many earlier accusations against McDaniel, including allegations that he was overly strict with the police he supervised.
McDaniel denied the accusations. At one point during his testimony Monday night, the former chief broke into tears while telling the hearing how badly the loss of his post had affected him and his family.
Old Complaints Resurrected
The hearing was part of McDaniel's effort to regain his job. Under pressure from city officials, McDaniel resigned May 28, but a month later he rescinded that resignation. The city began special hearings last month on McDaniel's request to be reinstated.
The unusual session on Monday was called on the holiday because no other day could be arranged among those involved.
Among old complaints brought up during the day was an implication that the chief was a racist because he has been accused of making racial slurs.
McDaniel told the hearing that the charges and allegations were not true. McDaniel's attorney, Fred T. Ashley, said in closing arguments that McDaniel had been deprived of his position without due process of law.
Ashley contended that McDaniel was forced to resign, saying the police chief in effect faced formal firing if he didn't resign.
A special private attorney representing the city argued in counterpoint that McDaniel was not fit to be police chief, that he had agreed to resign and that by taking severance money while still wanting his job back the former chief was seeking "the best of both worlds."
Ashley, however, said that McDaniel had returned to the city all the money he was given when he resigned.
The hearing was requested by McDaniel's attorney and originally was to be held for just four days. However, at the conclusion of four days of testimony, Aug. 10-13, McDaniel had not yet taken the witness stand. Labor Day was the only time the judge, attorneys and McDaniel could agree on to complete the hearing.
Breaks Into Tears
Most of the day was spent with Ashley reviewing the events that led to McDaniel's "forced resignation" May 28. Ashley asked McDaniel what impact the resignation had on McDaniel when Hendrickson asked him to resign. McDaniel responded:
"I told him (Hendrickson) it was a decision I couldn't live with, and I wouldn't be able to face my family. . . ." At this point, McDaniel's voice trailed off and he broke into tears. Rickles called for a five-minute recess.
Ashley, in his closing argument, said that the City Council and the city manager undermined McDaniel's authority. But the city's special attorney, David C. Larsen, said in his closing arguments that McDaniel had in effect short-circuited the communication process and that police under him were fearful of going to him with problems and instead went to other city officials.
In addition to formally seeking reinstatement, McDaniel also has filed a claim for $4.35 million against the city, accusing city administrators, council members and police officers of engaging in a conspiracy to cause him emotional distress and force him to resign after 20 months as chief.