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Police Capt. Smith retires

Feb. 5 would have marked his 32nd year with the department. He was recently placed on leave along with the police chief.

January 14, 2011|By Joanna Clay, joanna.clay@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — A high-ranking police official who was placed on leave last year has retired after 31 years of service to the Costa Mesa Police Department.

Capt. Ron Smith confirmed in a Friday interview that Monday was his last day. Feb. 5 would have marked his 32nd year on with the department.

"Ron has been an important part of the Police Department and has been involved in some very major and successful investigations throughout his career," City Manager Allan Roeder said.

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On Nov. 19, Smith and his superior, Police Chief Christopher Shawkey, were put on administrative leave. Roeder has since declined to comment or provide details on the matter.

A month after being put on leave, Smith told the Pilot he planned to retire.

Smith, a former Officer of the Year in Costa Mesa, stayed with the department even after he maxed out his pension two years ago. There were also retirement incentives for veteran officers at the time.

His pension will be 90% of his salary, which was $151,131.

Former Daily Pilot Editor William Lobdell wrote a column Jan. 4 regarding Shawkey's and Smith's leave. Lobdell had gone through 200 pages of public documents that revealed Shawkey might have used a city-issued credit card for personal mileage expenses. Smith had approved some of his supervisors' expense reports, which was then in accordance with city policy.

The police chief had submitted 163 receipts for gas over 22 months, adding up to $4,827. However, most of the money spent was not in Costa Mesa — his city of work — but in places as far away as Utah, Wyoming and Nevada. In contrast, Smith had expensed only one tank of gas per month.

Smith had the responsibility to oversee his superior's expenses and approve them. Documents show that both signed off and marked the expenses as "for official business only."

Shawkey was the former airport bureau commander at Phoenix Police Department and was hired by Costa Mesa in 2007. In Arizona alone he gassed up 39 times in the nearly two year period.

High-ranking officials told the Pilot in November that Shawkey had been absent for a good chunk of the year, arousing questions regarding the expenses filed out of state.

Neither provided comment on the matter.

After reviewing the documents and reading Lobdell's column, Roeder announced the city would change the policy that allowed a subordinate to OK a police chief's expense reports. On Jan. 5 he announced that all reports will be approved by the city manager.

Roeder did not say if the expenses played a part in the administrative leave.

Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch plans to hire a replacement for Smith.

—Daily Pilot archives contributed to this report.

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