Feb 25, 2012 2:24 AM by Ariel Wesler

85 percent vote "No Confidence" in Santa Maria police chief

A key vote tonight shows the majority of the Santa Maria Police Department is not happy with Chief Danny Macagni's leadership.

The Police Officers Association counted the ballots and released the results shortly before 6:15 Friday night.

The vote comes after two officers were shot by friendly fire three months ago, and Officer Albert Covarubbias, Jr. was shot and killed by another officer while being arrested for alleged sexual misconduct.

This is the first time a "No Confidence" vote has been issued at the Santa Maria Police Department.

119 ballots were sent out to all the members of the Police Officers Association. 93 were returned, which is about 80 percent. Of those ballots, 85 percent said they were not confident in Police Chief Danny Macagni.

Members of the Santa Maria Police Officers Association sent a clear message Friday night. They want new leadership.

"I think this shows it's just not a few of us. It's 85 percent of the POA membership that aren't happy," said Sgt. Chris Nartatez, who is the union president and also the cousin of Covarrubias.

Nartatez says votes were cast by mail in ballots sent to a PO Box that can only be accessed by two members. While most of the union does not approve of Macagni, Nartatez says the vote in no way affects public safety in the city.

"The people behind me, the people in the department are going to continue wanting to be police officers and protect the public, so that in no way should affect the community," he said.

Chief Macagni declined to comment following the vote, but told KSBY News in an interview two weeks ago, he had no plans of quitting because of the controversy.

"Absolutely not. No and no and no," he said.

The results are not binding, but they are another key factor for City Manager Rick Haydon to consider.

We asked Nartatez if there was anything he'd like to Haydon, who makes the final decision on whether Macagni keeps his job.

"Well, we've been talking to him and we hope that with this we'll be heard," Nartatez said.

KSBY News spoke with Haydon after the vote came down. He says he still he has full confidence in Chief Macagni and how he's handled the situation with limited resources.

Haydon says he wasn't at all surprised by the vote and feels this is a result of the raw emotion still evident from the most recent shooting, where officers lost one of their own.

He also added that he is asking the Office of Independent Review from Los Angeles County to speak with union members to reach a constructive resolution.

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