Atascadero police chief terminated after dispute with city manager

September 15, 2022

Bob Masterson

By JOSH FRIEDMAN and KAREN VELIE

The city of Atascadero fired its police chief on Wednesday, citing incompatibility with the city’s top executive as reason for the termination.

For weeks, City Manager Rachelle Rickard discussed firing the chief after he refused to adopt her management style, sources said. When the chief returned last month from vacation, Rickard told him he was fired.

However, Atascadero’s Municipal Code requires Rickard garner city council approval before terminating a chief of police.

Rickard regrouped and asked the council, after promoting complaints against the chief made by an underling, to terminate Masterson, which the city council agreed to do on Tuesday.

Ultimately, the city released Masterson under a section of his contract that allowed for his termination on a not-for-cause basis. The clause is often included in employment contracts for municipal government executives, and it allows for termination if the worker is not a good fit, according to Rickard.

“Incompatible management styles” is the compelling reason behind the police chief’s termination, according to the city.

Bob Masterson, who is now owed more than $100,000 in severance pay, served less than two years as Atascadero’s police chief.

“Chief Masterson is a very capable chief with strong leadership skills, so it was only after very careful consideration, that it was decided to end Chief Masterson’s employment with the city,” Rickard said in a statement. “We appreciate Chief Masterson’s service to the city over the last 20 months and thank him for the dedication, integrity, commitment and heart that he brought to the job every day.”

Masterson’s employment contract entitles him to six months of salary and benefits if terminated without cause.The city has agreed to pay him $103,777, according to his severance agreement.

Before joining the Atascadero Police Department, Masterson served as the chief of the King City Police Department for 4.5 years, following an eight-year stint as the chief of the College of the Sequoias Police Department.

Masterson took over as Atascadero’s top cop in Jan. 2021, replacing former chief Jerel Haley, who retired. During Masterson’s tenure, he worked to implement programs for Atascadero’s homeless population by reestablishing the city’s Community Action Team. Masterson also sent officers to training for high-stress situations, worked to revamp the police department budget and hired seven officers and four dispatchers.

City officials will begin the search for a new police chief in the upcoming months.


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OnlyinSLO

I guess we all forgot the scandal that rocked King City’s Police Department from a few years ago and the elected officials and department heads in Atascadero didn’t mind those issues. Reminds me of Kelly Gearheart being the Citizen of the Year, the dubbed criminal of the year the next year. Our elected officials truly know how to scrape from the bottom of the barrel. On that note a convicted felon walks the halls of City Hall daily, but don’t worry she is reformed.


Niles Q

Coming from King City should have been a red flag.


choprzrul

I wonder if Bob Masterson is related to famed lawman Bartholemew William Barclay “Bat” Masterson?


20miles

I’d say a huge law suit is coming. I doubt that being terminated because of a differing management styles is justified. The City Manager will be next, with cause, after this fiasco.


mullyman

Who ever sets these Public official contracts up should get a cut every time someone is let go because where else can you work get put on paid leave while investigation is on and if you get fired they pay you a ton of money. Good gig


JCILOALL

A-town gov’t officials are beginning to imitate the shitshow of gov’t officials in SLO. What an absolute shame that is.


kayaknut

Whatever happened to two weeks severance and applying for unemployment, if it’s good enough for us…… $100,000+ severance ridiculous.


matthwy58

It’s too bad that these children can’t learn to share the sand box. Long ago I was told “you may not like who we hired but you better learn how to work with them”. Turns out it was great advice, I learned you don’t have to like the people you work with to be effective. Time to grow up children and do your job.

The $100 grand should be taken out of the city managers severance package if she makes it 5 more years, then put it back.


panflash

Yes, agreed…. And not only that, but don’t I recall that Rickard raved about what a great hire Masterson was when she selected him for the Police Chief job?


But now, less than two years later, we are to believe that he is all of a sudden SLO County’s Vladimir Putin or something?


Maybe it’s Rickard that the City Council should be looking at ( ? )…..