HESPERIA The months-long struggle between Hesperia Unified School District's chief of police and superintendent is going to end the way it started: in public.


Chief Mike Graham has requested that his termination hearing be held in public, rather than behind closed doors as is customary.


"Everything else that I've done has been out in public, out in the public session," Graham said Monday. "If they want to get rid of me, we can do it in public."


The dispute between the district's police officers and district officials first went public at a school board meeting in March, when Graham and Officer Bill Holland (who's also a Hesperia councilman) accused Superintendent Mark McKinney of preventing them from investigating Sultana High School student government accounting regularities as a criminal investigation back in 2009.


A private investigator's report released in May supported their assertion that McKinney had told Graham and other officers to stop pursuing a criminal investigation. But the report disagreed with officers' assertions that budget cuts to the department were in retaliation, as the cash-strapped district was also trimming other departments.


A July 18 memorandum from McKinney to Graham limited the role of officers for the 2011-12 school year and put more responsibility in the hands of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. McKinney and board president Chris Bentley said the changes will keep police on high school campuses and increase safety, while officers said it's a risky move.


Formerly Security Police with the Air Force (the service's police are now known as Security Forces), a deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and a deputy marshal with the now-defunct San Bernardino County Marshal's Department, Graham has been with the HUSD police department since 2001. He was appointed chief in April 2008.


Graham's hearing begins at 8 a.m. Dec. 27 in the Hesperia Administration and Educational Support Center, 15576 Main Street. It is expected to run two to three days.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com.