Steve Gesell hired by his former boss
January 1, 2016
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.
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.