I am the former Chief of the Novato Police Department. I retired last year after 31 years with the NPD, starting as a patrol officer and rising through the ranks to Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain before being appointed Chief in 2012. Although I do not live in the City, I care a great deal about it. That is why I feel it necessary to make this statement about the upcoming City Council election. It is critical for the residents of Novato to know how damaging City Council member Pat Eklund has been to the City of Novato, and to its ability to meet the challenges it faces.
Pat Eklund was first elected to the City Council in 1995, 22 years ago, so I interacted with her first as a patrol officer. Back then she treated me nicely as she does with most “rank and file” personnel, but as I increased in rank I found her increasingly unfriendly, and I have since realized that it was not personal to me. Pat is friendly and comfortable with entry-level city workers and patrol officers, but she is cold and unfriendly, if not hostile, to those in positions of authority, whether they be city administrators, police brass, or even fellow council members. Over time I came to appreciate that Pat has a narcissistic personality, but in reality has a very fragile ego and feels threatened by anyone not subservient to her.
Despite, or perhaps because of her fragile ego, Pat has become a very effective politician. She constantly panders to voters to gain their admiration, using “red meat” issues such as her supposed support for police, and opposition to taxes. She has won elections with these slogans, but I have seen close up how she has no real interest in learning the details or doing what is right for the City of Novato as a whole. Pat is infamous amongst city officials for her propensity to play the “gotcha” game in public. She would purposely not seek clarifying information from City staff so that she could then catch staff by surprise at open City Council meetings. All this done to feed her ego and look smarter than staff in front of the public, but more importantly, her supporters.
One striking example of Pat Eklund’s disregard for the common good related to police officer staffing levels. During my tenure as chief of the NPD, we were unable to fill several open police officer positions because the department was offering pay levels significantly lower than other departments in the area. The police department’s needs were considered when the City Manager and staff proposed renewal of a half-cent sales tax that was set to expire in 2015. Renewal of the existing tax would have made it possible for us to increase officer salaries and fill empty positions, and the majority of Novato residents supported renewal of the tax in polls, but Pat Eklund, who constantly trumpets her support for public safety and has called for hiring more police officers, opposed the renewal because that is what her activist “base” demanded of her. I witnessed her making blatantly false statements in public about police staffing levels to hide the fact that her budgetary decisions were making it impossible for us to maintain force levels. In truth, despite her claims to support the police department, Pat never offered a responsible plan to increase police officer staffing levels, or even showed a genuine interest in learning how to help us do our job better. Instead Pat would “suggest” that other issues were the cause of understaffing at the police department.
One example of Pat’s skills at manipulation and deception was when the department purchased several new patrol vehicles several years ago. We attempted to purchase those vehicles from the local dealer, but found that they were not motivated to gain our business and could not offer competitive pricing. We purchased the vehicles from a dealer in Sacramento that specializes in supplying patrol vehicles to state and local police agencies, saving the City thousands of dollars in the process. Pat, who claims to be a budget hawk, still criticized the department for not purchasing the vehicles locally, ignoring the reasons we did what we did.
Pat also made it difficult for top-level city officials (both past and present) to do our jobs. She made disparaging comments about me (and previous Police Chiefs) to patrol officers and civilian staff we commanded, undermining department morale and the chain of command. One would assume that an individual with a graduate degree and 20 plus years serving as a Council Member should have known how inappropriate that was. Indeed any mature adult should have known that. But the sad reality is that she does know that and it is one of her core strategies that she deploys to divide and conquer so that she can feed her ego and give the appearance that only she knows what’s best for Novato.
The City of Novato deserves someone who is an effective leader, honest, willing to learn and able to work with other people to make Novato a better place. In my opinion Pat Eklund does not possess the necessary skills to serve on the Novato City Council.