Vidor's top cop resigns

Vidor's top cop resigns

Reposted From The Oct. 14 edition of The Examiner

Amid allegations of wrongdoing and shortly after a battle with an elected city of Vidor councilwoman, Vidor Police Chief Charles Eric Foerster has officially resigned his post as head of the municipality's police department.

Foerster was hired into the department less than two years ago and since that time has made waves, both good and bad, according to those likewise entrusted with managing the city's affairs and enforcing the laws of the land. Also in that time span, the police chief was awarded a substantial raise. Still, less than six months after receiving a boost in pay, Foerster sent word to the City Council he was moving on to greener pastures. In his resignation letter submitted Sept. 28, Foerster addresses his correspondence to City Manager Ricky Jorgensen.

"I have accepted a position with another city and I am resigning my position as chief of police for the city of Vidor," he stated. "I have truly appreciated working at the city of Vidor and working with such a great city staff."

The letter also specifies Foerster's last day of service to officially be Oct. 15, with the week of Oct. 11- 15 chalked up to vacation days. The actual last day of on-the-job service, according to the document accepted by the city manager, will be Friday, Oct. 8. Jorgensen said the soon-to-be former police chief will be taking a post in Jersey Village, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston. A call to the city of Jersey Village did not confirm the new position, but human resources staffer Karen Farris said the city was in the process of hiring a police chief for their department. A posting for employment submitted by Jersey Village lists the vacancy as of May 26 of this year. The salary would be an added incentive, boosting Foerster's $75,000 estimated annual pay by more than $15,000 if he is selected for the position.

"I hate to see him go," Jorgensen said of the man he called a friend. "He got the position in Jersey Village. I hate that he's going. Eric and I had a very good relationship."

Jorgensen said Foerster implemented COPsync, a program targeted at enhancing officer safety in the field; initiated a new policy manual; and began a crime unit to work afterhours and weekends to get a handle on the city's crime. According to the city manager, Foerster was an asset to the city.

Others disagree. Vidor Police Association President Sgt. David Vandagriff is one of those people. According to Vandagriff, not only does the police chief fall short of "asset," but his practices have also made him a liability.

"This man is a horrible liar," Vandagriff said matter-of-factly when asked about his chief. "If the truth was going to be good enough, he'd still lie."

Vandagriff said there have been multiple incidences during the course of Foerster's 23 months on the job, but the most egregious of acts occurred when his boss filed a falsified complaint on the veteran officer.

"I have never seen anything like it in my 25 years on the job," a bewildered sergeant told The Examiner. "I am fed up. I've taken all I can from this guy."

The conflict centers on a memorandum filed by Foerster, sent to Vandagriff's Internal Affairs file, alleging a former employee of the police department named the sergeant as "leader of the pack" in pressuring dispatchers to support the police association's collective bargaining agreement.

According to the memo penned by Foerster, "She relayed that Vandagriff was the leader of the pack and he was creating a great amount of tension within the department by talking badly about everyone, including command staff. She states he is openly insubordinate and outwardly hostile towards the command staff. She claims he speaks openly in front of staff in a hostile fashion."

No signatures are present on the complaint, according to memo, because, "The people in this report refused to sign a statement against Sgt. Vandagriff due to fear of retaliation. This also seems common here at the police department."

Vandagriff said he contacted his CLEAT (Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas) attorney, Mitch Adams, upon hearing the complaint was filed in his personnel jacket.

"I talked to the alleged complainant," Adams said. "She told me she never filed a complaint."

Adams said his next move was to send a letter to Chief Foerster requesting the document's immediate removal. In a correspondence addressed to the chief of police and faxed to the Vidor Police Department on Sept. 1, Adams detailed his client's case.

"It has been brought to my attention that a memorandum is in Sergeant David Vandagriff's personnel file. As you are aware, the memo concerns attributed to (name withheld), says specifically that she 'made a complaint' about several supervisors, including Sergeant Vandagriff.

"I spoke with (her) after meeting with you. She informed me that she advised you in person that she did not make the statements you attributed to her in the memorandum, and that she never made any complaint about Sergeant Vandagriff or any other supervisor concerning the subject matter of the memorandum.

"Considering the facts described above, be advised that the existence of the memorandum in Sergeant Vandagriff's personnel file could potentially be illegal under Tex. Pen. Code 37.10, Tampering with Governmental Record. According to the statute, it is a crime to knowingly make a false entry in a governmental record. While the element of 'knowingly' is debatable here, there is no question but that the memorandum is a governmental record. Whether or not the memorandum in Sergeant Vandagriff's file is criminal in lieu of the 'knowingly' element, rest assured that its use in any further action by the City of Vidor and/or the Vidor Police Department would also be a crime under 37.10, which makes it an offense to present or use a record which the actor knows to be false in an attempt to portray it as a genuine government record. As you have been put on notice by (the alleged complainant) of the memorandum's falseness, any use of it in the future would be criminal."

The correspondence ended with a request to immediately remove the flawed report.

"Your refusal to do so," it read, "will likely result in a complaint filed with the Orange County District Attorney's Office for Tampering with Governmental Record. It will also likely result in a civil action filed against you."

In a speedy response, Foerster answered Adams' correspondence the following day. "I received your faxed letter and I appreciate the information contained within," Foerster's response began. "As of this date, the file you write of has been removed from Sgt. Vandagriff's file."

The remaining five sentences allege the complaint was partially verified by the alleged complainant. "(She) did not retract the entire statement as shown in the memo," he said. Ending with, "It does seem like we are stuck with a severe case of he said-she said."

Adams said Vandagriff was satisfied with the measure civilly, but criminally Foerster should still be on the hot seat.

Members of the city's government agreed that criminal implications could be inferred and steps were taken to "look into" the matter. Three weeks after the exchange of letters, the Vidor City Council met to discuss the allegations made on the chief of police. The governmental body met in closed executive session Sept. 23 and returned to announce City Manager Jorgensen would conduct an investigation into the charges levied.

When asked what was revealed during the course of the investigation between the time of the assignment and Foerster's resignation, Jorgensen said, "I didn't even start the investigation."

The city manager added he has no plans of furthering the investigation now that the chief has resigned his post, nor would he forward the investigation to any other investigating agency, before abruptly ending the call.

City Councilman Matt Ortego said, "I wish the chief of police the best of luck in his new job. But if he put a false complaint in an officer's file, he should answer for that. You just don't do something like that. It's illegal, and it's wrong."

Ortego, a peace officer by profession, said making false complaints on law enforcement officers is not only damaging to the targeted individual, but to the department as well. According to him, in order for the Vidor Police Department to continue to effectively do its job, citizens must be able to trust law enforcement with their safety and well-being. Internal riffs and possible criminal actions such as this are not conducive to a productive work environment, he said.

Vandagriff said he is happy to see Foerster leave but is hesitant to rejoice in the chief's move to a new department. "I don't see how a liar like him can be in law enforcement for so long," he said. "This man needs to be purged from the system.

"My goal here is to have a great police department. We're on the way now," Vandagriff added.

Multiple attempts to contact Foerster went unanswered as of press time.