The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Pull up a chair: Interviews of police chief candidates open to the public

In City Hall, Police Department on April 2, 2008 at 7:34 pm

On Tuesday afternoon, neither Jim Piersall, a member of the city’s Civil Service Commission, nor Jim Prosser, city manager, figured the upcoming, 90-minute interviews with the seven candidates vying to be Cedar Rapids’ next police chief would be open to the public.

Piersall, though, said to ask Prosser. Prosser said the interviews would be closed. But then he said to check with Piersall.

On Wednesday, Piersall said he had visited with City Attorney Jim Flitz and the seven interviews would be open to the public. He didn’t discount the possibility that some parts of the interview might move into closed session.

One interview will take place Saturday afternoon; four on Tuesday; two on Wednesday. All will be held in the City Hall council chambers.

It makes sense, Piersall said, to open the interviews up and give the public a chance to see what their next police chief might look like.

Two of the seven candidates are current members of the department, Capts. Steve O’Konek, 46, and Bernard Walther, 47. O’Konek joined the department in 1985, Walther in 1981. Both head up patrol divisions at the department.

Walther will be interviewed at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday; O’Konek at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The other candidates are: Randy Bratton, 44, police chief in Paducah, Ky.; Joseph D’Agostino, 49, a police captain in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Kenneth Graham, 46, a deputy chief in Ocala, Fla.; Jeff Hadley, 37, a police captain in Ft. Wayne, Ind.; and Gary Maas, 57, Littleton, Colo.

Maas will interview at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. He was police chief in Sioux City, Iowa, from February 1991 to November 1996, and in Littleton, Colo., from November 1996 to December 2006.  Without being asked, he noted via e-mail that the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 occurred in Jefferson County, Colo., near but outside of Littleton. Maas now is director of intergovernment relations and legislative liaison with the Colorado Department of Corrections.

The four other candidates from outside Cedar Rapids will interview on Tuesday: D’Agostino at 9 a.m.; Graham at 10:30 a.m.; Bratton at 1:30 p.m.; and Hadley at 3 p.m.

The seven candidates will be interviewed by Piersall and another member of the three-member Civil Service Commission; Prosser; Fire Chief Steve Havlik; Mo Sheronick, assistant city attorney; Conni Huber, human resources director; and Bill Moulder, former Des Moines police chief.

The search for a new chief is underway to replace Mike Klappholz, who retired March 7 at age 55. Capt. Richard Stephens is acting chief.

After the upcoming interviews, the Civil Service Commission will determine which of the seven are qualified to be police chief and will rank the group by an objective analysis.

Prosser then will hire from the list. He said he expects a second round of interviews with finalists, and he said he hopes to have a chief in place by early June. The City Council must approve his pick.

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