Police chief quietly returns after retiring

Council may not make Diggs’ reappointment permanent

Chief Derrick Diggs said he retired after reaching the maximum number of years allowed in an Ohio deferred retirement plan.
Chief Derrick Diggs said he retired after reaching the maximum number of years allowed in an Ohio deferred retirement plan.

Toledo police Chief Derrick Diggs was quietly sworn in Monday as police chief by Mayor Mike Bell — again.

But this time it was during a private ceremony in the mayor's office, and it came four days after Chief Diggs retired on March 21.

Chief Diggs, 57, said he left the job because he had reached the maximum number of years police officers and firefighters are allowed to remain in Ohio's Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP. Mayor Bell agreed to rehire the chief for the same job.

Toledo City Council on Tuesday, during its agenda review meeting, was handed the mayor's request to confirm the appointment but it was quickly questioned.

Councilman D. Michael Collins said Chief Diggs could serve as “acting chief,” without council's confirmation, throughout the rest of Mayor Bell's term.

If a majority of council confirms Chief Diggs’ appointment, and Mr. Bell is not re-elected, the next mayor would be unable to appoint a new police chief without having just cause to fire Chief Diggs, Mr. Collins said.

“I am not trying to hold the confirmation for Chief Diggs,” he said after the council meeting. “I said I would support the confirmation. However, our past experience in this area has created issues when a new administration has come in and removed the individual sitting in the police chief's position.”

Councilman Joe McNamara, who is running for mayor against Mr. Bell and others, said he assumed Mr. Collins was trying to prevent a vote because it would not be a unanimous vote in favor of Chief Diggs' confirmation.

Mr. McNamara said he will vote against the confirmation because Chief Diggs has become a so-called double-dipper.

“In a time when many Toledoans are delaying retirement, or may not even have a pension to look forward to, it’s wrong for Mayor Bell to allow a top administrator to receive a fat city pension while also receiving a very large city salary,” Mr. McNamara said.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat confirmed that the next mayor, if Mr. Bell is defeated in November, could not remove a police or fire chief who has council confirmation unless there is just cause.

That was the case with former Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre when then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner tried to replace him, Mr. Herwat said. During a brief period in 2006, from Jan. 4 to June 27, when Mr. Finkbeiner replaced Chief Navarre with Jack Smith, Chief Navarre was demoted to the rank of deputy chief and assumed duties as the interim executive director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Mr. Herwat said Chief Navarre received a settlement after he was fired by Mr. Finkbeiner in order to drop his complaint against the city.

“My understanding was [Mr. Finkbeiner] wanted to demote [Chief Navarre] so he could promote Jack Smith, and it is my understanding that he received his same pay,” Mr. Herwat said.

Mr. Finkbeiner reappointed Chief Navarre to lead the department hours after Chief Smith stepped down.

DROP is an optional benefit that is meant to be “cost-neutral for the pension fund.” It permits public safety officers to build retirement savings in exchange for reduced lifetime pensions.

A calculator on the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund's Web site estimates Chief Diggs could receive a pension of about $71,000 based on his nearly 36 years of service and his $102,132 annual salary.

The chief, who did not return calls for comment, will also receive a check for his unpaid and unused sick and vacation time. Jen Sorgenfrei, the mayor's spokesman, said that figure had not yet been calculated.

Council could vote on the confirmation during its regular meeting next week.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.