UPDATED: Bainbridge police chief resigns

Bainbridge Island Police Chief Matt Haney is leaving his post to take a job with an Eastern Washington tribe next month.

Haney, 55, gave official notice of his resignation today.

He’ll continue as chief until mid-February. Deputy Chief Jon Fehlman, who was hired in November, will take over the department until a replacement is selected, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said.

Haney will retire from the state retirement system before assuming his new duties as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville’s chief of police.

“I guess I’m not retiring as far as work goes,” Haney said. “I’m going from one full-time job to another full-time job. I’ll still be working 60 hours a week, probably till the day I die.”

Haney said he’s had an eye on the Colville job for many years. He and his family have hunted, fished and camped in the reservation, which straddles Okanagan and Ferry counties, for almost 30 years. One of his four sons moved there to work as a rancher.

“I’m moving to be with friends and family,” he said. “This job doesn’t open every year, so when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.”

His parting with the city was amicable.

“This job has been tremendously rewarding,” he said. “One thing that’s never changed is the support the community has given me, and the mayor and I have always been on good terms.”

Kordonowy said Haney’s departure will be a loss for the city.

“It’s sad,” she said. “But I’m excited for him. It’ll be quite different work from what he’s done before.”

Haney admitted his new job will have bigger challenges than he’s faced on Bainbridge Island, but that, too, is part of the draw.

He’ll be covering an area 75 times larger than Bainbridge, and with a population that’s less than half the island’s. One of the most economically depressed communities in the state, the reservation this month saw hundreds of workers laid off from a plywood mill, one of the region’s biggest employers. The reservation’s 30-member police force is stretched thin, combating local crimes as well as a robust drug trade over the Canadian border.

“There’s a lot of geography to cover in a very sparely populated area,” he said. “There’s planes dropping 100 pound bags of marijuana, so you have some serious drug running. There’s very few police. There’s a significant difference between having three officers on the island, and three on-duty on the reservation.”

Haney joined the Bainbridge police in 2001 and took over as chief in 2003. He served as interim city administrator for a few months last year until the city hired Mark Dombroski.

Haney, who was born in South Korea and grew up in Oregon, started his law enforcement career 31 years ago in Port Angeles. He served on the Kent and Homer, Alaska police departments and the King County Sheriffs Office, where he investigated the Green River serial killings.

Haney is the latest in a recent string of top-level resignations from the city. His announcement follows Public Works Director Randy Witt’s resignation two weeks ago. Other recent departures include Deputy Finance Director Carol Badzik in July, Planning Director Greg Byrne in April, City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs last January and downtown planning director Sandy Fischer in the spring of 2007.

While other administrators pointed to elected officials’ flawed relationships with each other and with staff as a key reason for resigning, Haney stressed that politics did not play into his decision to leave.

The city will begin the process of selecting a permanent police chief immediately.