August 6, 2008

Harp to the Rescue

By Robert Rogers

SAN BERNARDINO - The man tapped to temporarily head the city's Code Enforcement Department has made a career of being the capable No. 2.

But Wayne Harp can lead too, say longtime city officials and the man himself.

"This is something I can do," Harp said. "I think code enforcement is a little like detective work, and I have a lot of experience in that. I have some transferable skills."

Harp, 61, was named Monday to head a department that has been in limbo since longtime Director Glenn Baude was placed on administrative leave last month.

Baude was dogged by criticism of his leadership after child- molestation allegations led to the arrest of a manager for Operation Phoenix, the anti-crime initiative Baude directed in addition to his code duties. Late last month, City Manager Fred Wilson placed Baude on leave without citing a reason.

Harp retired from the Police Department as assistant chief in 2001 after a 33-year career. His retirement may have helped pave the way for current Chief Michael Billdt.

But Harp said he was ready for the tough situation he's striding into.

"I'm told these people were loyal to and liked Glenn," Harp said. "I'm going to run this place as well as I can and treat people fairly."

Harp said sense of duty is more of a draw than money. Having retired with a salary of around $115,000, Harp collects around $100,000 annually for life thanks to the city's retirement program.

"I like this city. I was born here," Harp said. "I feel some affinity and allegiance to this city."

Harp spent Tuesday morning in meetings with City Manager Fred Wilson and Mayor Pat Morris, then later was at a meeting on graffiti abatement. By afternoon, he was sitting in Baude's former office for the first time.

Harp said he didn't plan on calling a big meeting and rallying the troops.

"I'm not big on welcoming speeches," he said. "I'll probably do this one-on-one with each person here, get to know them and get feedback. That's generally my style."

Harp said he can work up to 960 hours, or approximately 6 months at $64.82 per hour, without affecting his city-funded pension.

Harp has stayed busy in retirement. He worked for about three years as a bodyguard and driver for Neal Baker, the founder of a local restaurant chain. This year, he worked for about six months managing the Police Department's jail facilities.

City Attorney James F. Penman said Harp is well-suited to his new role.

"Harp is one of the best police management officials we've had in the last 20 years," Penman said.

Penman also praised Harp's integrity, pointing out he didn't try to increase his retirement benefits.

"He is one of the few people in the last 20 years to take a regular police retirement instead of a medical retirement," Penman said.

Billdt, who worked with Harp for nearly 30 years, said he brings the right qualities to the job.

"He's professional, he's ethical, and he gets things done," Billdt said.

Mayor Pat Morris said Harp's immediate availability and experience were key factors in his selection.

Morris said Deputy Director Marianne Milligan may have been an option, but that City Manager Fred Wilson knew early on that he had to look elsewhere.

"She made it clear that she is planning to return to law practice," Morris said. "She took herself out of consideration."

Milligan did not respond to calls for comment, but Penman disputed Morris' statements.

"Neither she nor anyone else in the department was ever in consideration by the city manager," Penman said.

(c) 2008 The Sun, San Bernardino, Calif.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.