Chief has beef with Brown, steps down
In a memo to City Manager Michael Kovacs, Russell wrote, "I am unable to continue working in a city where the Mayor is out of control and lacks integrity or ethics. It is obvious that he has his own personal agenda rather than the good of the people."
Brown asked for an evaluation of the police department's performance during the June city council meeting, saying he had received a number of complaints about the operation.
Russell responded with a loose-leaf notebook that he said met each of the points raised by Brown. In any event, the notebook was not opened during the council meeting. City council members declined to probe deeply into the department, however, and several council members said Russell had done a good job of reorganizing it.
Brown agreed on Tuesday that Russell had done well initially.
"He started out doing a fine job of straightening the police department, but it needed straightening," Brown said.
Regarding Russell's memo of resignation, Brown said, "In light of Mr. Russell's targeting me, I wish him the very best in his endeavors."
Russell came to Port Aransas in May, 2006, replacing outgoing Police Chief Don Perkins, who was fired by Kovacs. Russell was the choice of a consultant and selection committee from among four finalists for the chief's position. He had previously been Chief of Police in Uvalde and had served on the California Highway Patrol.
At the time, Russell said he didn't intend to stay long in Port Aransas, setting his sights on a 2-3-year tenure here. On Aug. 29, he will have been police chief for two years and three months.
Russell's announcement caught several city councilmen off guard.
"I thought he did a great job of upgrading the police department," said Councilman Keith Donley. "That said, I know when he joined the city he said it was for a limited time and I think that was verified by the fact that he was living in an RV. I know it was a personal decision for him and my concern is that we seem to have a lot of supervisors resigning citywide. I think it will make it that much more difficult in our search for someone who's qualified, because it makes me wonder why we have so many resigning."
"He inherited an antiquated system," Councilman Keith McMullin said of Russell. "The department has made great strides in modernization and the chief and city manager deserve credit for those achievements.
"I am concerned that his resigna- tion might send worrisome signals to others on the city staff. I want to assure the city staff and everyone in Port Aransas that the city council remains fully supportive of the city manager and his team. I am grateful for his leadership and for the many contributions he continues to make in our community."
Councilman Charles Bujan called the resignation "totally unexpected."
Councilman Rick Pratt said he would talk to both Russell and Brown in an attempt to get at the truth of the matter, and had scheduled a meeting with Russell for Wednesday, Aug. 6.
"As far as I am concerned, the chief has done a very good job of making a professional organization out of a department that was non-functional," Pratt said. "He has done it quickly and professionally. I am very sorry that he is resigning under this circumstance."
Pratt said whatever he learned about the friction between Russell and Brown he would share publicly.
Russell emphatically denied that any disagreement had forced his resignation. He pointed to his memo to Kovacs, which said, "I want to thank you, the City Council and the good people of Port Aransas for your support and confidence in me. … I wish you the best in the future, and again thank you for the opportunity to serve the citizens of this community."
Russell said he had no specific plans for after Aug. 29, except possibly to travel a bit.
"I've been in law enforcement for more than 41 years," he said. "I think (my wife and I) will just relax for a while."