McKinney City Manager Explains Chief's Dismissal

By Randy McIlwain
|  Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012  |  Updated 7:30 PM CDT
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McKinney City Manager Explains Chief's Dismissal

Former McKinney Police Chief Doug Kowalski.

McKinney City Manager Jason Gray says his decision to fire longtime police chief, Doug Kowalski, was neither abrupt nor the consequence of a personality conflict, it just needed to be done.

On October 5, Gray announced that former Chief Doug Kowalski had been reassigned as a special assistant to the City Manager, a newly created position designed to give the City of McKinney time to negotiate a settlement with Kowlski, who has led the department for more than a decade.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 5, Gray says he's been evaluating Kowalski's leadership of the department for a year and a half and has major concerns about, "communication within the department, disciplinary procedures, and serious issues with supervision."

One example of the problems Gray discussed is the criminal case of chiropractor David Russell.

Russell faces several counts of "sexual assault of a child" and "assault by contact" of women he treated at his practice.  Accusations of Russell's alleged crimes were made in person at the McKinney Police department, by phone, and email, but were not investigated for months. In that time, another alleged victim came forward.

The McKinney police department admitted that incident could have been prevented had earlier reports against Russell been addressed. McKinney police department publicly apologized for it's handling of the Russell case which still awaits it's day in court.

An internal investigation of what happened led to the department acknowledging mistakes, changing some policies for assigning cases, and some officers were disciplined.

Gray says the Russell case is one example of problems he believes are the result of the culture that existed within Kowalski's administration, but was not the sole reason he was dismissed.

Deputy City Manager Joe Williams, who has 20 years of law enforcement experience, has been named McKinney's Chief of Police.  Williams has worked with Gray before in Frisco, was hired by Gray as Celina's Police Chief, and followed the City Manager to McKinney.  Gray says he hasn't decided on whether to conduct a national search for a new Chief yet and wants to give Williams time to implement the transition before making that decision.

The President of McKinney's Police Association, Tom Macri, initially says officers had concerns about Kowalski's dismissal and that the organization didn't feel the dismissal was handled properly.  Gray announced Kowalski's reassignment in a short, vague, written statement publicly and recorded a video to explain the reassignment to the police department's 200 plus employees.   Gray admits he could have handled the announcement better but says there are always concerns about how much can be revealed in a "personnel matter."

Kowalski has yet to address his dismissal as he is currently still engaged in settlement talks with the City of McKinney.

Supporters, including many citizens now critical of Gray and city council members, continue to demand answers.

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