It appears the concerns raised about the Sandusky city commission's police chief search committee were on target and commissioners likely will find themselves in a quandary as the October deadline for hiring a chief approaches. City manager Nicole Ard also might have a tough time following the city charter through and making a hire if problems with the process are not addressed.
City commissioner Diedre Cole took the heat after she questioned the search process and commissioner Pervis Brown Jr. leadership of the committee during a commission meeting Aug. 13. Brown fired back at Cole, declaring the search committee he headed up followed the letter of the law. (Hit this link to see video of the meeting and a previous story on this topic.)
"If you're not comfortable with the process, change the charter," Brown snapped back at Cole during a commission meeting Aug. 13, calling her inquiry "reprehensible."
Commissioner Jeff Smith piled on during the exchange, accusing Cole of ulterior motives as if he were a prosecuting attorney rather than her colleague on commission.
Since then, however, Brown asked for an investigation of the search process and that probe is currently underway.
Several of the finalists for the chief's job might not be qualified based on the charter's requirements. The city has spent more than $20,000 already on the search and it might need to be sent back for further review before a list of three potential chiefs can be forwarded to Ard for a decision.
It's been more than four years since the Sandusky Police Department had a permanent police chief. Given the department's troubled history, this is too important a decision to be made lightly. Cole was right to raise her concerns publicly despite the discomfort it caused. Smith would be wise to drop the prosecutorial stance and he and the other commissioners would be wise to carefully consider any concerns when the lawyer's report on the investigation Brown requested is finished up.
Unfortunately, the clarity needed might not come from that report. The track record for private attorneys doing government investigations is not a good one unless success is measured by the size of the invoice. Look no further than the $60,000 Huron Schools report on an investigation of its superintendent; the chausee rental homes probe the city ordered; and of course, the $22,000 Murman report that led to ouster of the last permanent SPD police chief.
Hiring a new city police chief has been a slow and difficult process. But this is one decision the city needs to get right.