Atascadero police chief’s settlement raises questions

January 19, 2011

Jim Mulhall

Atascadero city officials released a settlement agreement Wednesday that says both the city and Police Chief Jim Mulhall “wished to end his employment,” even though they previously said Mulhall was retiring in order to spend more time with his family.

The agreement, which appears to bring to light more questions about Mulhall’s sudden exit than answers, includes a one-time payout of $126,000 in exchange for the city agreeing not to terminate Mulhall with cause and both parties agreeing not to sue the other or admit to any wrongdoing. This is the second time in the past two years the city has paid a high ranking police officer severance pay after a controversial exit.

Mulhall and the city also agreed not to disparage the other unless compelled in court to give testimony.

“In the event that Mulhall or the city is subpoenaed, or ordered by the court or believes that the party may be compelled by legal process to give testimony that will disparage the other party such party shall immediately notify the other party… so as to give the party the opportunity to object before the appropriate court,” the agreement says.

In addition, the city also agreed to support Mulhall by giving him a positive reference for future employment.

Mulhall, 58, joined the Atascadero Police Department in 2007 as a Lieutenant and was promoted to the chief’s position in December 2007. Mulhall’s resignation comes one year before he would have met the five years required in order to be vested in his retirement.

As part of Mulhall’s 2007 employment agreement, if fired for cause Mulhall would not be entitled to any severance pay or compensation. If terminated without cause, the city would be required to pay him severance pay equal to six months pay and benefits.

Mulhall’s severance appears to be in line with six months pay and benefits along with pay for unused paid administrative and vacation leave. Mulhall was paid $190,765 in salary and benefits in 2010.

His employment contract with the city calls for yearly evaluations of Mulhall’s performance of his duties. Several sources told CalCoastNews that Mulhall had been under fire for performance issues and was asked to resign or face termination

Today’s settlement agreement offers both parties a degree of privacy that could help keep the specific reasons surrounding Mulhall’s departure a mystery to the general public.



  1. standup says:

    People, with all these public official problems like the Oceano treatment plant, stolen mowers in SLO, Wade Mckinney, Rodney (Ali baba) John and his forty thieves, Patricia Hedges, and this police chief, get off your rears and file grand jury investigations into all the wrong doings. Start recal efforts for the officials who appoint these idiots. If you sit back and do nothing, you are no better than them.

    (13) 25 Total Votes - 19 up - 6 down
  2. Nancimeek says:

    Atascadero is the only city in california with a police department which requires a subpoena to obtain a copy of YOUR police report If you are a victim of a crime and need a copy of the report you MUST have a subpoena which requries an attorney to obtain the subpoena at a cost YOU pay for

    Does that sound fair? THE ONLY CITY IN CALIFORNIA I checked Who made that rule?

    (22) 28 Total Votes - 25 up - 3 down
    • Cindy says:

      Atascadero has also refused to release a copy of a 911 tape to the person who placed the call. It was a call about an off duty SLO police officer that followed her son home, attacked (punching) her disabled son on her front steps and smashed in her screen door in the process. At the time, after she called 911 for help, the assailant identified himself as an off duty SLO LEO and showed her his badge, then he fled the scene before the APD arrived. She was intimidated and told the APD that she didn’t want to press charges. Seems to me that the APD could see the mayhem this LEO had created and it was obvious that a crime had been committed but they decided to do nothing! Can any of us imagine getting away with something like that? A few days later, the woman realized that what occurred was not by any means acceptable and she asked for the 911 tape. They won’t produce a copy for her. She had to get an attorney and sue them.

      (18) 24 Total Votes - 21 up - 3 down
    • mikey says:

      i think as tax payers we have a right to know why they are spending our money!? what does mulhall khow that they dont want us to know?

      (12) 16 Total Votes - 14 up - 2 down
  3. ApathyWillKillYou says:

    I completely understand non public disclosure of employers reasons for termination in the PRIVATE sector… that’s why it’s called PRIVATE.

    But the PUBLIC sector is totally different in that their salaries and endless generous benefits are paid by the PUBLIC. So the public has the absolute right to know EVERYTHING about a PUBLIC employee, including detailed documentation about being terminated.

    This problem is HUGE in that a PUBLIC employee is basically fired in one way or another and the future employer has NO RIGHT to know the circumstances with regards to their former employer!

    “In addition, the city also agreed to support Mulhall by giving him a positive reference for future


    These basically fired PUBLIC employees bounce from one job to another because their previous inferior job performance is protected by privacy agreements! And the public pays the tab!

    Just check out where the recently hired in the last 5 years high ranking public officials in SLO county came from and WHY they left their previous employment. (a mainstay question in the hiring process in the PRIVATE sector).

    SORRY, you don’t get to know anything NEGATIVE about their past!


    And if the PUBLIC doesn’t continue to write the checks in the form of taxes, etc. that perpertuate the problem then the PUBLIC OFFICIALS can FINE, PENALIZE, SEIZE PROPERTY, SEIZE BANK ACCOUNTS and even throw you in JAIL if you don’t comply.

    (36) 58 Total Votes - 47 up - 11 down
    • SLOPolyGrad says:

      I agree that we should know what’s going on, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that his firing is the result malfeasance on his part, or that everyone who works in the public arena has a negative past that everyone keeps secret. I think Mulhall was with the Sheriff’s department for 30 years with an unblemished record. It could be that there was a moral disagreement about how best to proceed with a moral dilemma, and since they were at an impass, this is where it ended up.

      Also, I’m not sure all records of public employees should be given to the world. We all deserve some privacy, especially regarding the gossip and backstabbing that goes on in any job. People can start making baseless accusations about other people if they knew that that would eventually get into the hands of the public. That could get ugly. What if someone called you a racist at work, or claimed that you stole something when you did nothing of the sort. The city/gov’t should have some ability to keep those things private.

      (7) 31 Total Votes - 19 up - 12 down
      • ApathyWillKillYou says:

        “I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that his firing is the result malfeasance on his part” !!!

        Mr. Mulhall did something agregious enough that the majority of the city council, city attorney and the city manager had to negotiate a termination settlement that included a $126,000 payout and you don’t think there was MALFEASANCE!

        ” Mulhall was with the Sheriff’s department for 30 years with an unblemished record”

        How do you know the record? The records are PRIVATE because of non disclosure agreements. There is NO way to know if the record is blemished!

        “People can start making baseless accusations about other people”

        Happens all the time in BOTH the PRIVATE and PUBLIC sector!

        (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
      • ososkid says:

        I think what you are saying is pretty reasonable, but I also think there should be some sort of independent arbitrator that has the power to release information based on the publics interest. When I say arbitrator I think it should be a panel of people free of any conflict of interest.. Just because you work in the public sector doesnt man you’ve abandonded all reasonable expectations to privacy, at the same it time it doesnt mean you’ve retained all either.

        (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
        • ApathyWillKillYou says:

          Of course there needs to some reasonable expectation to privacy.

          But what we don’t need is some prospective City Manager, Police Chief, etc. that has just been (privately) run out of town on a rail – tared and feathered from another city and getting hired by another city that has NO right to know their tainted past employment history!

          I believe we have a few of these high ranking employees with way less than sterling pasts holding down huge jobs in our county!

          And remember they are hired employees that are NOT elected so the difficult recall process would not be required to oust them… but alas they have employment CONTRACTS (that perpetuiate the non disclosure of negative past employment) and are almost impossible to fire without giving them a TON of money!

          Maybe if these municipalities would hire WITHOUT an employment contract then they could be ‘dismissed’ easily for sub standard performance. But then we wouldn’t attract the talent level required of a public serpent… I mean servant!

          (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
      • danika says:

        If my tax dollar is being used to hush up someone who supposedly “resigned” and the people who allowed that “resignation” to stand are going to give that person a glowing reference to future employers, I darned sure want to know the details. It’s my money! If they want to not have to disclose the details, let them write the check out of their own pockets. It would be difficult for Mullhall to get a job anywhere and not have this bite him back…and deservedly.

        (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
        • ApathyWillKillYou says:

          Not only does the TAXPAYER have NO rights as to WHY Mulhall was let go and paid $126,000 of OUR money but neither does MulHall’s new EMPLOYER!

          (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  4. Fedup says:

    There is way more to this than meets the eye.

    (23) 27 Total Votes - 25 up - 2 down
  5. racket says:

    Uneducated Conjecture:

    Perhaps Mulhall is leaving to spend more time with his family.

    But, because he is a friend of the City of Belltascadero, he was given a lovely parting gift at taxpayer expense.

    What I am saying is perhaps there is no drama other than a manufactured controversy that ended with Mulhall’s “termination without cause” and reciept of $126,000.

    (-6) 20 Total Votes - 7 up - 13 down
    • racket says:

      … he wouldn’t have gotten the money if he simply resigned. He got the money because he was terminated without cause…

      (10) 22 Total Votes - 16 up - 6 down
      • RU4Real says:

        He got the money because he “cut a deal” with the City Manager! The City Manager needs to GO NOW!

        (56) 66 Total Votes - 61 up - 5 down
    • Cindy says:

      Mulhall would not have quit when he only had to stay one more year to vest, before he could collect a second pension plan. He also didn’t get terminated entirely without cause, there was some cause although whether it was founded or not is something else. Something happened and clearly the city doesn’t want Mulhall airing the dirty laundry. But I wouldn’t be so quick to blame this on the City Council. No doubt they took direction from the City Attorney. Sounds like Wades fault to me.

      (21) 25 Total Votes - 23 up - 2 down
      • darwin_is_rolling_over says:

        My bet is that Mulhall did something that upset the city fathers and they asked him to resign. Then I bet he found out that he could have fought and stayed. I am sure there is egg on both sides face and if Wade is going to Brian (the City attorney) for any advice it is going to be great I am sure.

        (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
  6. SanSimeonSam says:

    I believe that, with the exception of Mike Brennler and maybe a couple of others, the combined IQ of the residents of Atascadero is not more than 100. I have a houseplant smarter than you people. What gives with you. Here the police chief quits before hes put in jail and you are going to pay him 126K. You folks must be made of money. You can pay your crooked city manager 250K a year to work about 6 months a year, you let Gearhart play you like cheap guitars and you do nothing. You guys are either filthy rich or dumber than dirt. Its disgusting and embarassing. On the other hand, if you are so rich that this graft and corruption has no impact on you, well i am a lovable guy and up for adoption.

    (48) 66 Total Votes - 57 up - 9 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      OUCH!!! That’s harsh. I have nothing in play here (I live in Paso) but comon do you really believe that the people knew and approved this? This is the council they installed. Granted they (Council) approve this but by the time it was done, is when the people of Atascadero found out.

      Good news for you. With the Super Bowl in a couple weeks, maybe you could apply for the job of Monday morning quarterback.

      (3) 21 Total Votes - 12 up - 9 down
      • SanSimeonSam says:

        We will see now won’t we. I would venture to guess that in four months no one in that town will remember the sheriffs name, Wade and the Asst Manager will still be in place, perhaps with a minor slap on the hand and the good citizens of Atascadero will go mindlessly on with their lives being played like cheap guitars. That claim is not monday morning quarterbacking and at that point say memorial day, when nothing has been done except some folks saying “boy lets wait for the FBI report……perhaps you will agree with me that these folks are dumber than dirt. I wish i had a business in Atascadero, I could make a fortune selling these people last weeks lottery tickets and pet rocks. Oh and its not just Atascadero

        (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
    • danika says:

      LOL! Did you mean to offend? Actually, I liked your comedic posting. Reminds me of my grandfather when he got all cranky because he couldn’t have a proper “movement”. Grandad, is this you?

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  7. danika says:

    We can be fairly reasonable it wasn’t cancer! Someone will spill the beans; they always do…

    (15) 17 Total Votes - 16 up - 1 down
  8. TacomaRose says:

    Was Mulhall given the Marty Tracy treatment?

    Do the readers remember Marty Tracy? He was the employee who did what he was told to do by McKinney and the Council and when things went sideways Marty was thrown under the bus.

    We may never know the real story here but the bottom line is this ……

    Get rid of McKinney, Lewis and the crooked Council and maybe …. just maybe Atascadero can return to something the citizens can be reasonably proud of.

    (43) 45 Total Votes - 44 up - 1 down
  9. liberalgirl says:

    I wonder what the real story is and if we will ever know. Another wrinkle of the Gearhart saga or ?????????

    I just wonder if all areas this size have the shenanigans going on that we do or if we are special? I have never really followed things like this before but I am going to start now.

    (25) 29 Total Votes - 27 up - 2 down

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