By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC) voted on Sept. 11 to officially support former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen during his new trial with the city of Medina over his dismissal.
“To me, as a Chinese American, the racial remarks by the City Manager and other city staff were very insulting, hateful and demeaning. Moreover, such racial slurs are clear evidence that the people making these remarks are prejudice. Judge Zilly is wrong to assume otherwise. After all, are we to believe that she and others who make racial slurs do not harbor greater prejudice toward Chinese and/or other people of color?” said Doug Chin, president of the Seattle Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans and member of APDC. Chin made the motion to support Chen. After a discussion period that included Chen answering questions, the motion was passed with no opposition.
APDC is a Seattle-area association of over 30 members who are the executive directors or directors of nonprofit and governmental organizations. It was formed in 1981.
This is not the first time that Chen has been in touch with the organization. As a member of the Seattle Police Department before joining the Medina Police Department, Chen worked with APDC to address the issue of Asian and Pacific American street gangs in the 1990s.
“When Jeff worked for the Seattle Police Department he was very involved with the Asian Task Force on youth,” said Al Sugiyama, executive director of the Executive Development Institute. “The Task Force was a subcommittee of the Asian Pacific Director’s Coalition. They were charged with leading the efforts to reduce the huge number of API youth street gangs in the 1990s. Jeff was a very active member and he contributed to the reduction of API gangs in the greater Seattle area.”
Chen is currently suing the city of Medina and former Medina City Manager Donna Hanson over his termination, which he claims was racially motivated. A federal jury ruled that the dismissal was indeed racially based in a March decision, awarding him over $2 million in damages. The jury’s decision was vacated by Federal Judge Thomas J. Zilly in June — the first time in the judge’s 25-year career that he has vacated a jury decision.
Donna Hanson left the city manager position in June under a severance agreement. She received $156,745 as pay and $57,976 in other benefits under the agreement.
The case centers on Chen’s dismissal process. He initially released a public resignation letter in December 2010 and quickly rescinded it less than two weeks later. He then released a seven-page letter to the Medina City Council stating that he quit because City Manager Hanson was forcing him out.
Chen was put on administrative leave following his rescinding, pending the results of an investigation led by private investigator and Bellevue attorney Ellen Lenhart. The investigation eventually found Chen guilty on six counts: dishonesty, abuse of his position as chief, unauthorized removal and/or destruction of public records, improper access of city records, improper access of the city’s email archives, and loss of confidence by subordinate officers.
Several community members took issue with the firing, saying that Chen had served Medina well, reducing crime in the city to nearly nonexistent levels. Medina citizens presented to the city council petitions calling for his reinstatement and for Hanson’s firing. (end)
Charles Lam can be reached at Charles@nwasianweekly.com.