Pacific mayor fires town's embattled police chief

PACIFIC, Wash. -- An embattled police chief, once the subject of a KOMO News investigation, just lost his job.

John Calkins was accused of abusing his power while serving as chief in the south King County town of Pacific. In 2009, the Problem Solvers investigated multiple allegations that Calkins used his position to intimidate others.

Our story prompted an outside investigation by the Klickitat Sheriff's Office that found Calkins did abuse his power. But Calkins wasn't fired or even disciplined at the time.

"I felt he slipped from under it. How he did it I don't know," said Mayor Cy Sun. "I only knew that justice wasn't done."

In a letter detailing reasons for the firing, Sun says Calkins' actions brought "negative, unsatisfactory, damaging publicity for the City of Pacific." The letter also says Sun first put the chief on administrative leave in January.

He says Calkins violated the city's Civil Service Rule 17 when he berated city staff over a decision to buy four -- instead of five -- new police cars.

"He took the treasurer in the hallway and just read the riot act, he even sweared at her," Sun said. Sun says Calkins also pulled the City Clerk aside and "read her the riot act, really bad."

Sun has a strained relationship with his police department. The majority of the officers signed a "no confidence" letter against the mayor in April.

Sergeant Jim Pickett did not sign the letter. The same day it was delivered, Pickett says he received a call to come to the mayor's home immediately.

The mayor named Pickett as Acting Chief.

Pickett says he's now trying to ease fears and uncertainty.

"Chiefs come and go. A new chief will come and we'll keep on doing what we do," Sgt. Pickett said. "As far as how it actually impacts the job on a day to day basis, there's very little impact. I'm trying to reassure them. Nothing changes. We still do our job."

Pacific city law says the chief serves "at the pleasure of the mayor." Sun says he doesn't expect Calkins to fight the firing, saying he has "good grounds for dismissing him."

We weren't able to reach the former chief for comment and have not heard back from the police guild.