OV mayor directs police chief to report to town manager

Following an executive session this week, Ocean View Mayor Gordon Wood told town council members that he had presented a written directive regarding the Ocean View Police Department.

“I hereby direct Kenneth M. McLaughlin, Chief of Police, to report to the Town Manager [Dianne Vogel] on departmental management and administration functions of the Public Safety Department other than actual policing operations and policing operating policy matters,” stated Wood’s directive.

“This directive should not be interpreted in any way to be considered as a demotion of the chief, who serves Ocean View so well,” Wood wrote in a statement, noting it was solely a provision to improve management coordination and structure.

McLaughlin’s employment contract states that the chief is under the “direction and control of the mayor.” Wood acknowledged that the provision was a source of controversy in the town, with many residents arguing that it was in violation of the town charter.

“The Attorney General, not once but twice, declared this not to be the case,” wrote Wood. “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.”

Wood stated that, now that Vogel has joined the town and residents fully support the 24/7 coverage, he feels confident that the change in administrative reporting will work.

“It will work. While the mayor still has direction and control responsibilities, this mayor sees no future need to step in. I have too much confidence in the chief and town manager.”

He noted that, in six months, he will propose a three-year extension of McLaughlin’s employment, with the intent to have the direction and control provision transferred to the town manager in the new contract.