Mayor Gary Jensen has fired the city’s new public works director, a little more than a week after Chad Bedlington was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Bedlington had been on paid administrative leave since he was arrested Feb. 4. According to police, an officer caught him attempting to start his car while holding an open can of beer around 1 a.m., after he had earlier left Poppe’s 360 Neighborhood Pub in Bellingham.
Bedlington’s termination was effective Feb. 12.
Bedlington, 41, was hired as Ferndale’s public works director in September 2014. His 6-month probationary period ended at the beginning of February, and a $95,000-per-year contract was approved during a City Council meeting Jan. 28. Pursuant to his contract, Bedlington will receive four months’ severance pay.
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“We really appreciate the work Chad did for us while he was here,” Jensen said in a statement. “In the end, we had to make a decision that was best for the community of Ferndale moving forward.”
Bedlington is the former superintendent of maintenance and operations for the city of Bellingham. He left that job in early 2013 to be public works director for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians in Eastern Washington before accepting the same position in Ferndale a year later.
Around 12:15 a.m. Feb. 4, employees at Poppe’s 360 Neighborhood Pub called police with concerns that Bedlington was about to drive home drunk. Bedlington drove his car a few feet before stopping, and an officer arrived shortly after and offered to arrange a ride home. Bedlington said he would walk home, according to police.
A half hour later, the officer caught Bedlington returning and attempting to start his car with an open can of beer in his hand. He refused to take a Breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test and was booked into Whatcom County Jail.
Sam Taylor, assistant city administrator, said even though Bedlington was arrested on personal time and was not using a city vehicle, the context of the situation led the city to decide it was best to fire Bedlington.
“When an employee does something, even on their personal time, they still have to understand that it reflects on the organization itself,” Taylor said. “When we make these decisions that does factor in.”
Bedlington did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
City Administrator Greg Young has acted as public works director during Bedlington’s absence. A search for a new director will begin over the next several months, city officials said.