In a statement, Martin said “I opposed the decision to appoint Officer Josh Etheridge as the new City of Chatsworth Police Chief because of the manner in which the selection process was conducted. I had not been informed about the interview process, applicants, and appointment decision prior to the recommendation statement Councilman Welch made. Even though my presence at the meeting entitled me to a vote, I did not have the same background information that the other councilmen had prior to the vote. I asked for discussion on the matter; however, nothing was offered about a rationale for this decision. I strongly feel that the appointment to a position as important as this and one that affects so many of our citizens should only be conducted in a manner in which all council members and mayor are knowledgeable and informed about the candidates and a fair selection process is followed. The ultimate responsibility for actions of any city leader rests on the shoulders of each and every councilman, not just those who bring forth an initial hiring recommendation. I am sorry to say that this was a public example of our lack of communication as a Council on important matters such as this. I view the role of Chief of Police as one that demands integrity, honesty, competency, humility, and service. Collectively as a community, we carry on the legacy of a passionate, hard-working group of people that have gone on before us. It is vital that someone in this important role know our people and be humbled by the opportunity to serve and live among them. The level of leadership that one must possess to be successful in this role comes only with competent wisdom and humility. It means that they must be willing and able to deeply connect with the people they serve and know them so well that their enforcement of the law is an unequivocal level of fairness and justice. Looking forward, I expect with his new appointment, Chief Etheridge, will go above and beyond to be a servant for our people.”
Coouncilman Fred Welch said there five applicants for the position and that the public safety committee members had conducted interviews and was making the recommendation to place Etheridge in the position. Members of the committee include Welch, Gary Brock and Brad Rowe.
Scott Bickford has served as acting chief since the move of former police chief Terry Martin to the city Marshall position. Martin came under public scrutiny as the result of an incident in which a Chatsworth resident accused Martin of following her and harassing her in relation to a divorce case. Martin had previously been involved with a private investigator’s office.
Celeste Martin asked Bickford during the council meeting if he had applied for the position and he answered yes. She then asked Mayor Dan Penland if there had been interviews. Penland replied that the members of the public safety committee had conducted interviews.
Ethereidge, 32, has been with the Chatsworth Police Department for about 12 years, most recently as a detective. His salary had yet to be determined as of press time.