The recent vote by Ocean View Town Council to change the police chief’s contract is unsettling on many levels.
Perhaps the biggest issue for us is the disregard shown toward a binding contract between Ocean View Police Department Chief Ken McLaughlin and the town itself. McLaughlin signed the contract of employment as it was written, and has done nothing to void the terms. The change taken by the council to make McLaughlin report to the town manager instead of the mayor might not have been signed by McLaughlin at the time of the contract. That, by itself, makes it unfair.
Put yourself in that position. You agreed to take a job under certain conditions, sign a contract that commits you to staying for a predetermined amount of time, and then your employer changes the rules.
Forget for a second that this revolves around a popular local police chief, and think about it in terms of sheer credibility. Would you want to work for someone who changes your job, while you have no recourse? If you worked somewhere and saw that happen to a co-worker, would you not be concerned?
Doesn’t this hurt the town’s credibility with anyone who is paying attention?
Look, the Ocean View Town Council has the right, and responsibility, to do what they feel is in the town’s best interests. We will never take a shot at a governmental body for making a vote that is against our personal beliefs, as long as there is a sense of fairness involved.
If the council votes to change their take-home policy for police cars, or move town business to the new public safety building, we understand that. There is reasoning behind those decisions, whether or not you agree with them.
However, this one violates the trust of a valued town employee and casts a darker shadow on a town that has been under much scrutiny as of late.
We have no problem with the council believing that their chief of police should report to the town manager. It’s done in many towns, and without problem.
However, McLaughlin signed a contract of terms with the town, and any changes should be made at the end of that contract so he has all the information before signing.