POMONA — Kelson McDaniel, who was ousted as police chief in San Clemente in 1987 after officers complained about his management style, began work as interim police chief in Pomona last week, praising the attitude of officers he has met and insisting that he has no instructions to fire anyone.
Mayor Donna Smith has said the council, over her objections, fired Police Chief Richard M. Tefank on Oct. 17 because he refused to fire a number of subordinates. Council members have denied that they have a "hit list" but have made it clear that they would like to see some officers depart.
Acting City Administrator Tom Fee, who appointed McDaniel on Wednesday, said, "My only instructions to him were to provide the best police protection for the citizens of the community."
He added that McDaniel "is highly qualified; he knows what he is doing and will provide our citizens with the level of police service they expect."
McDaniel, 52, has more than 26 years in law enforcement, starting with the Newport Beach Police Department where he spent 17 years and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He served more than six years as police chief in Los Alamitos and then 18 months as chief in San Clemente.
McDaniel said he lost his job in San Clemente despite receiving superior evaluations from his city manager after police officers issued a vote of no confidence. The officers complained that McDaniel had a punitive and uncommunicative management style.
McDaniel sought and obtained a hearing after his dismissal. The hearing officer found some justification for firing McDaniel but said he was dealing with problems, such as low police pay, that may have been beyond his control.
"There was no evidence showing McDaniel's termination resulted from any misconduct or moral turpitude, nor was there any evidence reflecting on his character or damaging to his reputation to serve as a police chief," the hearing officer declared. "The evidence only supports the proposition the termination was due to conflict as to his management style and his ability to control a volatile situation."
McDaniel said he felt vindicated by the hearing findings, but he did not get his job back and has since been working with his wife in a real estate office.
He said he has been eager to return to police work and will be a candidate for the permanent position of police chief. The city is soliciting applications.
Fee said Pomona police officers can be assured that McDaniel was not hired to terminate other employees. If the city were going to do that, he said, "we wouldn't hire a professional."
McDaniel said: "I'm assured that I am my own person. I simply wouldn't want anything to do with any kind of a hit list. . . . That's certainly not what I'm going to do at all."
He said the Pomona Police Department is clearly facing "a bit of a crisis that hopefully I can have a positive impact on."