Sources: CPD chief selection could cost city manager her job - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Sources: CPD chief selection could cost city manager her job

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City Manager Teresa Wilson announced five finalists for Columbia police chief Tuesday. Ruben Santiago was not on the list. City Manager Teresa Wilson announced five finalists for Columbia police chief Tuesday. Ruben Santiago was not on the list.

As the controversy surrounding the selection of Columbia's next police chief continues, sources close to the situation say the process could cost City Manager Teresa Wilson her job.

For the first time, there appears to be serious discussion about whether Wilson might lose her job over the selection process to find former Chief Randy Scott's permanent replacement.

Three knowledgeable sources say there might be as many as five council members willing to vote to fire Wilson if it turns out the selection process was not carried out with full transparency.

Wilson, the former assistant city manager, has been the city manager for just over a year and says she has not heard the talk about her job being in jeopardy.

This new information comes as a grassroots effort begins to have Interim Chief Ruben Santiago named to the list of five finalists. That effort, lead by a group of community members who back Santiago are planning to meet tonight in Five Points. Their hope is to take their concerns before Tuesday's city council meeting.

As it stands right now, the city has narrowed the field to five candidates: Tony Fisher, most recently the Director of Public Safety for the City of Spartanburg; William Holbrook, Chief of Police for the Huntington, West Virginia Police Department; Bryan Norwood, most recently chief of police in Richmond, Virginia; Charles Rapp, Executive Director for the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions and Gregory Reese, Chief of Security Forces for Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

According to the city, each candidate has held the position of chief or the equivalent, in his respective community. The slate of candidates manages between 111 to 2,000 sworn law enforcement personnel, with budgets ranging from $12 million to $79 million dollars.

Wilson has said they will all participate in a three-day assessment process starting Tuesday.

David Kunz, a friend and supporter of Santiago, is the driving force behind a gathering he has dubbed "Team Santiago."

"This is the most important decision for our city in years," said Kunz. "And our voices will make an impact if we join hands in this effort."

Kunz contacted Mayor Steve Benjamin regarding his disappointment that Santiago is no longer under consideration for the job. Benjamin urged him to voice his concern to the city's elected officials.

"Several council members share many of your concerns and I assure you that they will be given significant consideration as we move forward," wrote Benjamin in an email to Kunz.

One of those council members, Cameron Runyan, questions the process in which the five candidates were chosen.

"There remain questions about was there pre-selection in the process and we have to date [Robert] Bolchoz and the city manager have been unwilling to directly address those allegations that have been made," said Runyan.

Attorney Robert Bolchoz was the chairman of the five member search committee appointed by Wilson to whittle down a pool of about 50 candidates.

Runyan and others who support Santiago say it doesn't make sense to find him qualified to run the police department for a year but unqualified to hold the permanent job.

"We need to shelve everything that's been done thus far," said Runyan. "We need to engage a national search firm that has credibility, that has expertise, that knows how to go out to identify the next great rising star in police work, and in becoming the next potential chief of the City of Columbia."

By phone, Wilson says she sees no possibility at this point of altering the selection plan to include another candidate. She says even if state and federal investigations of allegations targeting Santiago turn out to clear him of wrongdoing, she would not likely deviate from the current process.

Meanwhile, the "Team Santiago" meeting will take place Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Speakeasy, which is located at 711 Saluda Avenue.

As for the man at the center of this, Santiago won't talk, but did offer a short statement via the Police Department's spokesperson, saying that he is not taking part of meeting or the group, but he did appreciate their support. 

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