When Will Atwater’s Police Chief Have His Day In Court?

By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Founding Publisher
August 23, 2018

One would think after all this time, Atwater Police Chief Sam Joseph would have his day in court. He has been waiting since last January to hear what charges are being made against him. He has not been charged.
Police Chief Sam Joseph is still a fully paid employee of the City of Atwater so he cannot speak in his own defense. His attorney broke the silence last week with an interview in the Merced Sun-Star for there were many questions, and many more questions not asked.
One thing is known and that is Chief Joseph did not want to automatically increase the rank of five Atwater Police officers who were promised by Police Chief Frank Pietro that they would get a raise when the city had the money.
The city has never had any money and is in debt up to its eyeballs.
Still the police officers union insisted these people be advanced. Chief Joseph wanted to allow all officers to compete for any increase in rank. His decision was overruled.
When he was put on administrative leave with pay, the interim City Manager Art de Werk stated that his decision to put Joseph on adminstrative leave was because of the police union’s vote of no confidence.
De Werk, a man who was fired as City Manager of Ceres with a non disclosure agreement, actually made the decision to put Chief Joseph on administrative leave before the union took a vote. Repeated questions about the vote have gone unanswered, such as how many officers voted and what kind of pressure was put on the other officers in the department to go along with the vote.
De Werk said he wanted to clear his name and be open with the public so at a meeting of the Atwater City Council he approved having a POST investigation by a private investigator. Before that investigation was submitted to the City Council, De Werk resigned.
City Attorney Doug White said since the investigation was incomplete, none of the information could be released to the City Council or the general public. He said he only talked to the investigator on the phone to know what was in the report.
That report remains in wraps. The city even refuses to say how much it paid for the report.
That report could show exactly what was going on in the city and the Atwater Police Department.
Thus far, the City of Atwater has had several investigations paid for by taxpayers and it is assumed that their purpose is to show that Sam Joseph is guilty of some wrong doing that would warrant his removal as police chief.
Those investigations now center on the evidence room — an area which if not handled correctly can cause many problems for attorneys and prosecutors. De Werk hinted that somehow Police Chief Sam Joseph handled the evidence room incorrectly. Apparently, that information was forwarded to both District Attorney Larry Morse and County Sheriff Vern Warnke several months ago. No action was taken against Chief Joseph. Why not?
Was anything done to ensure that the evidence room was secured at that time and no unauthorized person could go into the evidence room?
Now there are rumors that there have been problems in Atwater’s evidence room dating back to the time of Richard Hawthorne as police chief. Both he and Police Chief Frank Pietro were retired with high honors for doing an excellent job.
Atwater Police Chief Sam Joseph wants his day in court. We believe him to be a man of integrity whose name has been smeared by three members of the Atwater City Council — Cindy Vierra, Brian Raymond and Paul Creighton, and with the help of City Attorney Doug White and Art de Werk.
Where is the evidence of his wrong doing?
Now it is time to put up or shut up.


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