The Town of Ocean View is taking a walk down memory lane. Their hope, we suspect, is that it goes much smoother this time around.
Mayor Gordon Wood presented a written directive to the Ocean View Town Council Tuesday night stating that Police Chief Ken McLaughlin will report directly to the town manager. The Town attempted this a few years ago, when Conway Gregory was the town manager, but McLaughlin balked, pointing to his contract with the town that specifically states he is to report directly to the mayor.
However, in our opinion, there was friction between McLaughlin and Gregory at that point, and that sabotaged that effort completely. Also, in a conversation with Wood on Tuesday, he stipulated that the relationship between McLaughlin and the current town manager, Dianne Vogel, is strong, and that the Chief’s dealings with Vogel would only involve departmental management and administrative duties — not actual policing responsibilities.
Numerous residents complained about McLaughlin’s contract prohibitions the last time this went on, stating that it was in violation of the Town Charter, but Wood said differently.
“The Attorney General, not once but twice, declared this not to be the case,” Wood wrote in his statement. “I opposed this attempt to change the management structure via the Attorney General both times — and for good reason. At the time, I was not confident the town manager and then-current council would support 24/7 police service, something I believe our town supports... All this time I knew I could delegate responsibility to the town manager, but, did not because I thought it was the wrong thing at the wrong time.”
It’s important that all sides are on the same page on this issue — particularly Vogel and McLaughlin. If the chief believes his ability to protect and serve the residents of the town is hampered at all by this relationship, he will most likely balk at it, and he has specific verbage in his contract to back him up, apparently. And if Vogel believes she is being prevented from properly performing her duties, this could become a problem, as well.
One aspect that must also be considered is the reaction of the citizens of Ocean View. Oh, Town leadership has certainly contributed to some of the friction in the past, but citizens on all sides of various arguments in Ocean View have quite often escalated problems to ridiculous levels. And once people start taking sides, we know what happens then, particularly when Chief McLaughlin is involved.
We all need to take a wait-and-see approach on this one.