Judge upholds firing of Wasilla police chief

Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2000

PALMER (AP) -- Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin maintains she didn't fire Police Chief Irl Stambaugh three years ago because he supported her election opponent John Stein. But even if that was her reason, she was within her rights to dump Stambaugh, a federal judge has ruled.

The police chief serves at the discretion of the mayor, and can be terminated for nearly any reason, said U.S. District Court Judge James K. Singleton in a ruling Friday that dismissed most of Stambaugh's claims against the city.

Stambaugh led the Wasilla police force from its founding in 1993 until early 1997. Palin fired him in January 1997, shortly after she took office.

Stambaugh sued, accusing her of contract violation, wrongful termination and gender discrimination. He said his contract forbade his being terminated without cause.

But Singleton said that under state law, police chiefs serve at the behest of the mayor unless otherwise specified by city ordinance. Stein, the former mayor, had worked out an agreement with Stambaugh forbidding termination without cause, but the city council never voted on it, Singleton ruled.

Stambaugh now serves as executive director of the Alaska Police Standards Council in Juneau.

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