Police Chief Could Do Double-Duty as Asst. Manager in Royal Oak UPDATED

dickeys top SUPERHEROPolice Chief Could Do chazzano game adDouble-Duty as Assistant City Manager in Royal Oak

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 7, 2015)

UPDATE:  City Commission approved the promotion on Monday night.

Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak City Commission is expected to vote tonight on a measure that would put current Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue in the unique position of having two positions: Chief of Police and Assistant City Manager.

The vote would reinstate the Assistant City Manager position and allow O’Donohue to fill both that position and his current role.  He would get added responsibilities and added income garden16_todd_blakenshipfrom the move.

The recommendation coming from City Manager Donald Johnson details the rationale behind the proposal and the benefits he sees to the City and to the Chief:

The Honorable Mayor Ellison and

Members of the City Commission:

I’ve been struggling with two problems for some time which may have a common solution.

Royal Oak has not had an assistant city manager since Tom Trice retired in 2005. Few cities of our size and complexity do not have a designated second in command. Actually most cities less than half our size have one.Judy_Palmer30years

We do have an assistant to the city manager position but that is not the same thing. An “assistant to” has no line authority over the department heads and isn’t in a credible position to take over in my absence. I have on rare occasions had someone else set in my place at the commission meeting but no one else has taken on the full responsibilities of the manager in any of my absences. My solution has been to simply not be completely absent. Modern technology has made it possible for me to perform much of my duties remotely even while on vacation and during a recovery from surgery last year.

Our assistant city manager position was eliminated for financial reasons and we continue to face financial pressures that prevent me from asking you to let me add another person to my staff even though it is needed.

We are also facing leadership crises in one of our best managed departments. The Royal Oak steele lindbloom adPolice Department is without peer in Southeast Michigan, perhaps in the entire state. It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago, the ROPD was known as a troubled department. This change came about due to a lot of factors but most importantly due to management that instilled discipline, accountability and values that were previously lacking. For that I have to give primary credit to two individuals, former Chief Ted Quisenberry and, most importantly, current Chief Corrigan O’Donohue. Neither did it by himself. Both developed strong leaders among their deputies, lieutenants and sergeants and built a department we can all be very proud of.

On October 1, we lost one of those leaders when Deputy Chief Thomas Goad retired. Near the end of October, we learned Deputy Chief Gordon Young has been named Chief of Police in River Falls, Wisconsin and will be leaving Royal Oak shortly. Losing both deputy chiefs, in such a short period of time, is a major talent drain that will be deeply felt in the ROPD. It can easily become much worse. Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue is also eligible to retire.

The retirement system for police officers and firefighters was designed to retire police officers CFSEM-123-OaklandCounty115-digital-ad_v2and firefighters at a relatively young age, before they lose the physical ability to perform their jobs well. Many people may argue the system goes too far in this regard and I wouldn’t disagree, especially in regard to command staff. However, the system is what it is and it can only be changed through the collective bargaining process. Whether we like it or not, the chief can retire, if he chooses to do so, and there is a huge financial incentive for him to do so. His

current salary pays him only about $10,000 more per year than the pension he is eligible to receive. He could very easily take the pension and retiree health care he has already earned from Royal Oak, find another job elsewhere and be far better off financially. Chief O’Donohue is an exceptional chief and I’m sure he would have little difficulty finding another chief’s position or another position in law enforcement or a related industry.

Chief O’Donohue does not want to retire. He enjoys his job and there is a great deal of prestige associated with being the head of one of the best police departments in the country. However, twist_club01he does have a responsibility to his family.

We need to find a way to keep Chief O’Donohue. I propose to do that in two ways, while also solving my other problem.

First, I want to promote him to Assistant City Manager/Chief of Police with a pay raise to $120,000 per year. This accomplishes five things:

It is a significant salary increase but it is nowhere near enough, by itself, to make staying as financially attractive as retiring.


Chief O’Donohue is interested in expanding his horizons beyond the police department. He is currently enrolled in a MPA program and is genuinely interested in the possibility of eventually becoming a city manager. This provides him with an entry into general 711 ad pizzamanagement.


This provides me with a very talented manager that I can use to assist me in other areas besides police and it also provides a second in command who will have full authority when I am not present.


It may provide the city with a strong internal candidate to replace me when I choose to retire or when the commission chooses to retire me. I will be turning 64 in two weeks and I anticipate retiring in two years


Because he will continue to serve as police chief, we are not adding an employee and the budgetary impact is small. In fact, it will save money if the commission approves all of my DDAnew01recommendations and you examine the total impact on the city and on the retirement system.

Second, because the promotion and raise alone will not be enough to offset the financial advantages of retiring, I propose to establish a Key Employee Incentive Program (KEIP) which will make staying in the job much more attractive. Essentially, it freezes his pension benefit at the level it would be if he retired now, puts that amount into a new “KEIP” account which he receives when he does finally retire, and allows him to continue working. The KEIP program will be a six year program with full vesting not occurring for three years.

While this offers significant financial advantages to the chief, the total cost to the city and the retirement system is actually significantly less than it would be if he were to retire now. If Chief O’Donohue were to retire immediately, the pension system would be paying approximately $90,000 per year in pension benefits. The city would be paying for his retiree health care and we would be paying the full salary, healthcare and other benefits for a new police chief who would also be accruing future pension benefits. Under this plan, the pension system pays no more than it would if he retired today. He doesn’t accrue additional time ctechadcredits toward his pension nor does his final average compensation ever get increased because of his new salary. The public safety fund and general fund actually pay less because we are only paying health care for one employee instead of for a retiree and a new chief and the frozen pension means we do not keep increasing our pension liability.

Most importantly, it provides a means by which we can retain an exceptional chief of police at a time when losing him would create a leadership vacuum in the department. We do have a number of fine lieutenants ready to move up but we cannot afford to lose our top three command officers almost simultaneously. That would be a disaster and that is what will happen if we do not do something extraordinary to retain Chief O’Donohue.

Outside counsel has put together a document that will establish this plan. It needs actuarial review and retirement board approval before it will come to the city commission for approval. Counsel has also put together the attached contract between the city and Chief O’Donohue garden16_tom_selmanwhich I am submitting for your approval (Attachment 1).

I strongly recommend the commission approve the following resolution:

Whereas, the commission recognizes the exceptional leadership ability of Chief of Police Corrigan O’Donohue; and

Whereas, the commission also recognizes the leadership crises that will occur if all three of our top police command officers retire at essentially the same time; and

Whereas, the City of Royal Oak needs an assistant city manager;

Now therefore be it resolved, the city manager’s recommendation to re-establish the assistant city manager position is approved; and

Be it further resolved, the city manager’s promotion of Chief of Police Corrigan blumz ad 01 holidayO’Donohue to serve as Assistant City Manager/Chief of Police is authorized; and

Be it further resolved, the employment agreement with Chief of Police Corrigan O’Donohue is approved and the mayor, clerk and city manager are authorized to execute it on behalf of the City of Royal Oak; and

Be it finally resolved, Chief of Police Corrigan O’Donohue shall be eligible to participate in a Key Employee Incentive Plan (KEIP) and the documents formally establishing that plan shall be brought to the city commission for approval after an actuarial analysis is completed and the plan is approved by the retirement board.


The proposal is item #16 on the agenda for the Dec. 7, 2015 City Commission meeting. Read the agenda and click on the item for more details at http://romi.gov/sites/default/files/meetings/City%20Commission/2015/1207-2015A2_0.html.

dickeys bottom SUPERHERO

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