Chico city manager out

Council parts ways with Mark Orme, installs police chief in his place on interim basis

Supporters pray with Mark Orme (with tie in center) while awaiting the Chico City Council's decision about his future as city manager Friday afternoon (March 25). (Photo by Evan Tuchinsky)

After deliberating nearly six hours over two special meetings in the span of three days, the Chico City Council figured out what to do with the city manager position Friday afternoon (March 25): part ways with Mark Orme and appoint Police Chief Matt Madden to fill the post on an interim basis.

Council members met four hours Tuesday night in closed session to discuss Orme’s job performance; the result was the second special meeting called for 2 p.m. Friday. Seven speakers, including City Hall staffer Courtney Carrier, advocated to retain Orme, who came to Chico in 2013 as assistant city manager and has been city manager since 2014.

Gaylord Enns, a resident for 58 years, was one of three who told the council that it would be “a gamble” to seek someone else, saying: “There’s never been a more difficult time for city leadership than what we’re experiencing today. We can always pick at our leaders. We can always find something they can do better.”

A dozen supporters prayed with Orme and his family while the council convened in closed session. After an hour, City Attorney Vince Ewing asked to meet with him in the City Council Chambers conference room not occupied by the council. Orme returned 15 minutes later, huddled with city staff, kissed his wife and waited for the formal announcement—another 40 minutes.

With the council reseated at the dais, Ewing disclosed:

· Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds moved, with a second from Councilman Sean Morgan, to have the city attorney negotiate separation terms with Orme; the motion passed 5-2, with Councilmen Dale Bennett and Michael O’Brien dissenting.

· The council unanimously approved the negotiated terms, on a motion made by O’Brien and seconded by Bennett.

· On a motion from Morgan, seconded by O’Brien (the previous police chief), the council voted 6-1 to install Madden as interim city manager; Councilwoman Alex Brown (the lone progressive among conservatives on the panel) dissented.

Ewing announced no further details, though City Clerk Debbie Presson confirmed to the CN&R that the additional title of emergency services director, which Orme has held since the declaration of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, carries to his successor even for a short term. Mayor Andrew Coolidge, Madden and Orme declined to comment.

After the meeting, the city released a letter of resignation from Orme and a note from Coolidge thanking the city manager for his service.

City staff, including Police Chief Matt Madden (left, with sunglasses on forehead), sit together for Friday’s special meeting. (Photo by Evan Tuchinsky)

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9 Comments

    • Can anyone spell POLICE State?
      Is anyone really surprised? SCAPEGOAT, pure and simple. Prayers and E-Mails don’t work with this Council.

      • No one is surprised about anything in Butte County in general. That’s pretty bad, when you can no longer surprise citizens of an area…. Of anything.

  1. jH, given the current situation of an actual police state having invaded another country, bringing death, destruction, the arrest and vanishing of reporters and dissidents, and a real possibility of dragging us into World War III, the hyperbole of your comment moves from being merely laughably childish to utterly offensive.

    I will say though that the coverage in this article by CNR is very incomplete. No background given, no reasoning, no issues discussed. What is the reader to make if this? Not a bit of context. Shouldn’t they at least get statements or some off-the-record comments from sources on why this occurred?

    • We were not invited to this secret meeting. No issues were discussed with the public. It was supposed to be a personnel review. There was no resignation on the table till after this meeting started. This is called a City Council/City Manager form of government. Now the person who is designated the City Manager, Mr. Madden Police Chief, becomes so because the head of the Butte County Investigative Narcotics Task force (BINTF), head of a policing agency, City Council Member, former police chief wanted him to. If you attended the last two open council meetings, you would have known the laws involved. Fascist government often start with taking over key government positions. Putin, former KGB, was elected to his position and placed his cronies in power. Don’t compare this with the really stupid and sad invasion of the Ukraine. Compare it with how most modern Police States come to be. This agreement came from an unelected member of the council. It can’t happen here… famous last words.

  2. Humanize or militarize Chico PD? That is the choice of the good people of Chico. Do you want your tax dollars spent on military equipment, maintenance, and training of officers to use them …until they purchase new surplus weapons? Check the Chico PD website. The old city council and old city manager approved the purchase of a wide array of lethal weapons, Policy 709. Now with CPD Chief Madden in charge of the city and CPD the council has given him a blank check. These lethal weapons will be used on civilians, not combatants in a war zone. Is this what you all want?

  3. What about a ‘prayer circle’ as part of the conduct of official business? Was this before the Council discussion, just when it was going to start, or what? Had the meeting been officially convened? I hope not!

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