2018-07-05 / Front Page

Clayton board faces criticism over police chief hiring process

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CLAYTON TWP. – A storm is brewing in Clayton Township as elected officials prepare to name a new chief of police.

Efforts to enlist the services of objective third parties to vet the five candidates have met with harsh criticism from some residents who say many on the Board of Trustees already have an heir apparent in mind, and it isn’t the candidate those residents want leading the police force.

“This is such a volatile situation,” said Supervisor Chris Gehringer.

Interim Chief Charlotte Brown has overseen the department since February, when former Chief William Tucker resigned. Brown, who has applied for the chief’s job, has served as interim chief on two other occasions.

Citizens who showed up at a special meeting June 28 demanded to know why the board is spending money for outsiders to weigh in, rather than promoting Brown. They allege board members have met, two or three at a time, in private to garner votes for former Swartz Creek Police Chief Rick Clolinger.

Gehringer dismissed the claims as “animosity, rhetoric and gossip.”

“Every time something comes up, everybody’s mad,” he said.

Clerk Dennis Milem said involving outside parties will ensure that the selection process is “fair, equitable and everyone is on a level playing field.”

“I don’t know how to make it any more fair,” he said. “This is the only fair and equitable way.”

Milem added that it will still come down to the Board of Trustees selecting the next chief.

He also said residents have accused some township board members of being racist.

“The residents think there’s something going on,” he said. “This is the only way to show we’re not (showing favoritism).”

“It takes us out of the equation,” said Gehringer.

Not everyone on the township board is in favor of involving outsiders.

Trustee Shelly Thompson expressed opposition to the cost and questioned why the personnel committee can’t come up with a method for rating the candidates.

“It still comes back to money,” she said. “Because we’re spending our residents’ money. It shouldn’t flow through like it’s water.”

The board voted 6-0 to spend up to $5,000 to hire a Lansing attorney. The attorney will recruit three police chiefs with no connection to the Clayton Township area to interview the candidates, consider their resumes and responses to verbal and written questions, and make a recommendation to the township board.

The board, however, is not obligated to follow their suggestion.

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