Steve Gesell hired by his former boss

January 1, 2016
Steve Gesell

Steve Gesell

Ex-San Luis Obispo police chief Steve Gesell has been hired by his former boss. Gesell will become chief in Cottonwood, Arizona on Jan. 20, according to a city press release.

Doug Bartosh, the city manager of Cottonwood, formerly served as the police chief of Scottsdale Arizona. Gesell was a member of the Scottsdale Police Department for 20 years, 11 of which he served under Bartosh.

Both Gesell and Bartosh have left police chief positions following disputes with city management. Bartosh was fired in Scottsdale and has previously been accused of questionable hiring practices.

Gesell resigned from his San Luis Obispo position in May after a feud with City Manager Katie Lichtig. Gesell received a $120,000 settlement shortly after Lichtig placed him on administrative leave.

In January, Gesell violated city travel reimbursement policies on several occasions, making the city foot the bill for conferences that turned into family trips, according to a CalCoastNews exclusive. Around the same time, he applied for the police chief job in Chico.

Lichtig did not explain why she chose to part ways with Gesell, other than saying the two had philosophical differences.

In 2003, then-Scottsdale city manager Jan Dolan fired Bartosh. Dolan said she fired Bartosh because of a host of issues, including leadership problems and lack of enthusiasm to implement changes recommended in an audit of the police department, according to a report by the East Valley Tribune.

Bartosh later sued Scottsdale for wrongful termination, alleging Dolan barred him from speaking to the press following the audit that criticized the police department.

Five years prior to his firing, Bartosh waived city policy and hired a police administrative services director who admitted to using cocaine about 20 times, the East Valley Tribune reported.

Doug Bartosh

Doug Bartosh

The city of Cottonwood hired Bartosh as its police chief in 2005. Bartosh then became Cottonwood’s city manager in 2008.

While police chief in Cottonwood, Bartosh hired Gareth Braxton-Johnson, also a former employee of the Scottsdale Police Department.

In Dec. 2004, Braxton-Johnson was found drunk in his SUV outside a Scottsdale police station hours before he was scheduled to work, the Tuscon Citizen reported. Braxton-Johnson left the Scottsdale force in June 2005, shortly after its internal affairs division recommended he be fired.

The Cottonwood Police Department hired him as a school resources officer in Aug. 2005, according to his bio. Recently, Braxton-Johnson emerged as one of the finalists competing with Gesell for the job of Cottonwood chief.

When Gesell applied for the Cottonwood position, he stated on his job application he had difficulties with Lichtig in part because he wanted to obtain an armored vehicle, the Camp Verde Journal reported.

Gesel also stated the city tried to persuade him to keep an officer on staff who Gesell said repeatedly lied. Additionally, Gesell stated on his application that the city of SLO requested he limit media releases regarding crimes of public interest, according to the Camp Verde Journal report.

Bartosh announced Gesell’s hiring on Dec. 22.

“I am well aware of Steve’s qualifications and experience as we worked together in Scottsdale,” Bartosh said in the city news release. “I was most impressed with his ability to partner with citizens and businesses to resolve challenges that helped to improve the community.”

Gesell will receive an annual salary of $115,000, according to the press release. He was receiving a base salary of approximately $160,000 in San Luis Obispo.

Before taking the Cottonwood job, Gesell became a leading candidate for the Chico police chief position. Gesell withdrew his candidacy shortly after members of the Chico police union visited San Luis Obispo to investigate his background.

Gesell also applied for the police chief job in Fargo, North Dakota. Additionally, he considered running for sheriff against Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona.

The Cottonwood Police Department serves a population of about 40,000 people. This year, the police department gained national attention for its role in deadly brawl in a Walmart parking lot.

During the incident, eight members of an Idaho family fought with a group of officers. One of the men stole an officer’s gun and shot an officer in the leg. The brawl ended after an officer shot and killed a man and wounded another. Police deemed the shooting justified.



  1. mb business owner says:

    until the residents get totally disgusted with what is happening in their town – then and only then will change occur. similar to slo, mb is experiencing a abysmal situation including out of control spending and upcoming costs that will likely strap the city, but unless us citizens get busy and elect a group that represents the majority, we can only blame ourselves. good luck

    (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
    • joseywales says:

      Adam Hill wants as many dependents as possible… furthers his fascist interests. His Reich Minister of Propaganda lives there in the basement of someone who is on welfare themselves.

      (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
  2. joseywales says:

    that is the craziest melee i have ever seen. the family fighting itself while it is fighting the cops. probably some of the most incompetent policing i have ever seen as well. Gessell should be a good fit.

    (6) 20 Total Votes - 13 up - 7 down
    • Pelican1 says:

      Throughout the video I heard nothing but banjo music. After all this is a good ‘ol family from Idaho. Probably all members of the Light Foot Militia.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • slolusion says:

        Just to rub sand in- The area where that movie was filmed is growing faster than SLO.

        You guys should not be throwing rocks, because you’re on your way down out here.

        (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
    • kettle says:

      “incompetent policing”

      I lost count how many times they had someone on the ground and did not apply cuffs (no one helping) and let them get back up.

      Like tag team wrestling, with guns and laws.

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

        there were tons of options none of which were applied…..the whole thing was surreal.

        (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
        • Pelican1 says:

          Are you at all familiar with the Keystone Cops?????
          This was more like the Hatfield and the McCoy’s…too funny!

          (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
          • joseywales says:

            it truly was a battle of two groups of people with very very very little in the way of self management.

            (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. hijinks2 says:

    maybe this agency can recruit and hire away some of the rest of slo’s finest, McDow, Mason, Faria

    (17) 23 Total Votes - 20 up - 3 down
    • Citizen says:

      It’s the weak sister team of Lichtig, Dietrick, Marx, that your city needs to dump. In fact, it’s obvious that Gesell’s philosophical difference in his article to the Tribune was the reason he was forced out, not anything to do with his travel expenses. The weak sisters of SLO would have forgiven and hidden the travel vouchers if Gesell had gone along with their left wing views.

      (31) 45 Total Votes - 38 up - 7 down
      • kayaknut says:

        Actually a police chief that steals does need to go, but I agree Dietrick is a huge liability to the city, Marx and Lichtig are only in it for themselves and all three need to go but the voters of SLO seem fine with it.

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

        The new “Diversity Girl” chief will likely shore up the team you speak of.
        Weak team? I think rather strong in self-serving.

        (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
  4. indigo1955 says:

    I re-read this article and then watched the video too. Afterward, I was very disturbed. Of all the things one could apply the skill of journalism to—I cannot believe this would be what the local news would write about! This is so sickening–it is like some cheap online excuse for our local news. I will gladly pay for the Tribune’s online site at this point–even though I did not want to pay for news. I will consider it a gift to my self and a sign I am willing to engage in better self care.

    (-15) 59 Total Votes - 22 up - 37 down
    • tidepool says:

      Hey Indigo1955 do you want some cheese to go along with your whining??? Go pay to read the Tribune and there you will have to use your “real” name in the comments. You will be back. Cal Coast News is a great asset to our community because they publish whats really going on in this county and they have the courage to publish the truth not the bought and paid for misinformation.

      (19) 53 Total Votes - 36 up - 17 down
    • mej says:

      Indigo, The only thing I can make out of your comments is that you wish to bury your head in the sand so you can justify drinking the koolaide.

      Great video and good to know what it REALLY happening out in the world.

      (6) 24 Total Votes - 15 up - 9 down
    • laftch says:


      (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
    • r0y says:

      Well, you know what they say: “Don’t let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya!”

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. OtisCampbell says:

    It should be obvious that there are far to many bad actors vying for positions in all sorts of important positions. Including government, educational, and public sector. Weaknesses ( aka: cost cutting) in the background/hiring process encourages these sociopaths to spoof the system. Good candidates are passed over for the robots who chime-in with the desired vocabulary. Followup verifications are restrained. ‘Save a few bucks’ is a mantra.

    (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
  6. laftch says:

    If you choose to resist arrest, you be prepared to kill and/or be killed.

    (8) 20 Total Votes - 14 up - 6 down
  7. slolusion says:

    SLO is so full of losers. This guy has moved on, do the same.

    There can’t be a brawl at the SLO Wal-Mart because SLO is too poor to support a Wal-Mart, and even if it was it’s fruit pickers and ‘prized homeless citizens’ aren’t shopping anywhere.

    Maybe the guy does well, maybe he doesn’t. One thing for sure, there’s more opportunity just about anywhere else in the country but here for people, so good luck.

    (-1) 39 Total Votes - 19 up - 20 down
    • indigo1955 says:

      I love your post! What proves it to be true is the fact that although Gesell is long, long gone–our local paper is writing a huge article about not only him—but his boss in Arizona! It also goes on to draw similar inferences between the two, list Gesell’s salaries–there are all kinds of details. There are so many points of interest that could be written about that actually concern our community–but they chose to write about THIS? Why would anyone even care? I am researching other places to live, and have been for a few months now. I was greatly reassured to see that I am not the only one who feels this way about SLO!

      (4) 28 Total Votes - 16 up - 12 down
      • shudacuda says:

        The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence…

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
      • slolusion says:

        Oh its not just you indigo.. They care here because their own chances at doing something in life are near zero. SLO is a small backward town in a declining state.

        Mr Gesell may be a bad cop, or may be very a good one. All he has to tell people in the rest of the nation when he applies for a job, is that his wacko liberal bosses got in his way in CA, and hardly anyone will fight him. Everyone can see how destructive the politics of CA has been to the state and the onslaught of ex-Californians in all these out of state communities attest.

        Indeed, before I came out here again, a 5th CA generation moved down the street exclaiming the state was effectively gone. But they came from LA.

        (2) 18 Total Votes - 10 up - 8 down
      • r0y says:

        Don’t like the details of your public servants’ pay packages? I think I know why we’re often in the messes we’re in.

        Try this: take an interest in how your money is being spent!

        (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
  8. Sebastes says:

    Good luck.

    (7) 15 Total Votes - 11 up - 4 down

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