Mo. police consultant left Tacoma job under scandal

TACOMA — The man hired to review a troubled Missouri police department was himself forced from a position as city manager in Tacoma as a result of his actions after a delayed Amber Alert response to a girl’s abduction in 2007.

Tacoma’s council voted in July not to extend former City Manager Eric Anderson’s contract and removed him from office following a string of controversies.

Police said the delayed Amber Alert didn’t factor into the girl’s murder.

In Columbia, Mo., Anderson was paid $45,000 by his former intern, City Manager Mike Matthes, to review the city’s police department following complaints about its leadership and low officer morale, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

“Eric’s got a nationwide reputation as one of the best in the business,” Matthes said. “Everyone in the business knows about Eric and his terrific success over many years. He’s kind of famous, really, in the work of city government.”

Columbia City Councilman Jason Thornhill said he’s comfortable with Anderson “based on the information we had available to us, which was a personal recommendation from (Matthes) and then some supporting material about Mr. Anderson’s … past history and body of work.”

The delayed Amber Alert from 2007 and subsequent refusals by the city’s police chief to address it were central to Anderson’s dismissal. The mistake was largely caused by an officer who got the call but fell back asleep and didn’t disseminate the requested alert until several hours later.

Tacoma’s police chief and the officer never publicly disclosed such details when directly asked over several months why it took the department so long to issue the alert.

After the details emerged in court records last year, Anderson defended the officers and initially resisted imposing any discipline or conducting an outside investigation.

In the Missouri department Anderson has been hired to examine, Thornhill pushed for the review in response to complaints about Columbia police Chief Ken Burton’s management.

The Columbia Police Officers Association and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police want Burton fired for his own dismissal of police officer Rob Sanders in September after an incident that left an inmate in a police holding cell with a broken back.

Burton fired Sanders even though an internal investigation cleared the officer of wrongdoing. The city recently settled a lawsuit filed by the inmate, Kenneth Baker, who will receive $250,000.

The report will also include an organizational review. The consultant fees will come from the police department’s budget.

Anderson, who worked as city manager in Des Moines, Iowa, from 1995 to 2005, gave Matthes his career start as an intern in 1996. Matthes climbed the ranks of Anderson’s staff over the next nine years, rising to an assistant city manager’s position. Columbia hired Matthes in 2011.

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