Ocean View finds compromise on police hierarchy

In a 4-1 vote, the Ocean View town council on Tuesday, Nov. 18, agreed to put an end to controversy regarding Police Chief Ken McLaughlin’s contract and adopted a compromise.

In a motion made by Councilman Roy Thomas, McLaughlin will return to the reporting structure that existed before the council voted 3-2 on Sept. 16, 2008, to have him report to the town manager, and will again report to the mayor, who serves as the head of the Public Safety Department.

The motion also defined the responsibilities of the mayor as the head of the Public Safety Department; and provided a process for all councilmen to have an equal share of the responsibility and authority of managing the department.

Mayor Gordon Wood added three changes to the motion that were offered as one amendment. As a result, at the end of the resolution the following will be added:

“Nothing in this resolution shall be interpreted as changing any authority of the mayor granted in the charter of the town of Ocean View or any other law of the state of Delaware. Further, nothing in this resolution is intended to or shall be interpreted to change the town’s contract with the chief of police executed on April 10, 2001, and extended with changes and execution on May 1, 2001.”

He also asked that the draft requirement for a weekly report to the town council regarding meetings and communications between the chief and the mayor be changed to every other week and that meetings be held “at their mutual convenience” instead of being “called by the town manager.”

“We have a charter,” emphasized Wood. “I am willing to do what the resolution requires, but the town manager is not my boss. I was elected, and he was hired.”

With the exception of Councilman Bill Wichmann, the council favored the resolution with Woods’ amendments.

“This is convoluted,” argued Wichmann. “It makes no sense. I see he has about six bosses. This is not how it was. This is how it was – except… and there’s about two pages of ‘except.’ It seems you are doing all you can to make it a hostile environment for the chief.”

“It’s time to put it behind us,” concluded Wood. “This is done in good faith, and it is the right thing to do. We are going to make this work.”