Source: Sherman Publications

Questions on city use of township's sheriff services

by Andrea Beaudoin

June 12, 2013

When Michael Powell of Independence Township listened to the May 13 Clarkston City Council meeting, he got fired up.

“I’m quickly finding the city manager is under the mistaken belief that the sheriff is to provide the city the same services the city received from its now defunct city police department,” said Powell.

During the meeting, Clarkston City Manager Carol Eberhardt told council members about a meeting she had with Oakland County Sheriff's Lt. Dirk Feneley, Independence Township substation commander.

“I don’t care where they (deputies) are going to, I want them to drive through the city whether they are on their route or not, even if they are going out to dinner,” said Eberhardt during the council meeting.

Powell, who listens to city council meetings on the city's website, said Eberhardt was out of line.

“Not long ago Clarkston voters voted down a millage increase proposal that would have kept their police department open,” said Powell.

City voters rejected a millage to preserve their police force in 2010, instead contracting police services with Oakland County Sherriff’s Office (OCSO) through Independence Township.

He added monthly reports about police activity in the area for the city is “special treatment.”

“Why are we wasting valuable township police manpower keeping separate records for the city and then providing special monthly reports to the city,” asked Powell.

The city and township adopted an Intergovernmental Law Enforcement Services Agreement. City residents pay the same millage rate as the township residents for police coverage.

Under the agreement, “No Sheriff’s deputy shall perform any services or any assignments in any manner to Clarkston,” cited Powell. In addition, the agreement states the city manager should contact the township supervisor with any concerns.

Eberhardt said she doesn't see a problem.

“One resident out of 40,000 that has a problem really is not an issue,” she said.

As part of settling into her new job, Eberhardt said she set up a meeting with several community figures including Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle and Lt. Feneley.

“I thought it would be polite to introduce myself to Lt. Feneley,” said Eberhardt. “These are people I will have important professional working relationships with and I would be remiss if I had not introduced myself to him.”

Eberhardt said she had received complaints residents were not seeing police in town and mentioned concerns to Feneley during their introduction meeting. She informed him Depot Park and some neighborhoods off of M-15 were experiencing vandalism, loitering and noise issues. Eberhardt said she asked for extra patrol in those areas.

Kittle said Eberhardt, like any citizen, is allowed to call the police.

“The sheriff will treat the city like any concerned neighborhood association or resident and provide additional patrol if requested,” he said.

Deputies depend on input from all residents regarding criminal activity, he added.

Powell wrote a letter and formal complaint to the Independence Township Board of Trustees, May 22, about the contract between the city and township.

Powell said Eberhardt should not meet with, or give any type of command to the sheriff’s department.

“These are all services that employ a deputy for the city’s benefit and takes an officer away from the township residents,” he said. “I just want the city to abide by the contract with the township and use the proper chain of command set up to keep the township supervisor and township residents in control of our police force.”

Powell said Eberhardt also mentioned a secondary agreement with the OCSO.

“This fictitious agreement was used to try to back up the preferential treatment that the city was requesting from the sheriff,” he said.

Eberhardt said Powell was referring to a letter dated Aug. 20, 2010, from a former substation commander, Lt. Dale LaBair, to previous City Manager Dennis Ritter. The letter was in response to an email from the mayor and city council asking for clarification and assurance of city services to be provided to the city by substation deputies.

The letter, which was sent to the city in advance of a signed agreement between the city and township, stated, “It is our expectation that we will strive to communicate and work with city government, local businesses, and civic organizations to assists them in any 'extraordinary' problems as they occur without additional expense to the city.”

Calls and emails to Lt. Feneley regarding this issue were unreturned.