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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Erie Township police chief to leave after dispute over new contract

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ERIE - After being given an ultimatum to agree to a new employee contract and getting suspended five days for failing to meet the deadline to sign it, Erie Township police Chief William Hines has decided to leave the department.

Chief Hines, who was honored in March by the local chapter of the American Red Cross with a heroism award, told township officials Monday that he'll leave July 31. Mr. Hines, 39, has been in charge of the township police department since 1998.

The announcement of Chief Hires' resignation follows action taken by the township board in April to change the job description of the police chief and two other department heads from "just cause" to "at will" employees.

It also comes on the heels of funding changes in the department. The 2009-10 fiscal budget approved last week by township officials provides nearly $50,000 less for police department operations.

Also, employees in the police department chose in April to suspend payments and remove themselves from the township pension plan to avert layoffs.

Chief Hines said he initially balked at signing the contract changing his employment status because his attorney advised him against it. He signed the contract last week, but exceeded a deadline imposed on him by the board's personnel committee.

"I was told to sign it or I was fired," he said. "I'm retiring effective July 31. I don't feel that I can be an effective police chief under the contract that has been forced on me."

Trustees Mike Grodi and David Cousino, who are the only members of the personnel committee, suspended Chief Hines without pay for five days because he signed the contract minutes after their 4 p.m. June 10 deadline.

Because he is the only administrator in the department of two full-time and two part-time officers, Chief Hines must take the suspension one day a week for five weeks, Mr. Cousino said. The first day of the suspension was yesterday.

Mr. Cousino said the police chief was given two extensions to sign the contract. He said the board wanted the contract in place before June 1, but gave the chief until June 9, the day of the most recent board meeting, to sign it, and extended the deadline again to June 10.

Building Inspector Michael Demski and Assessor Dan Smith, who are the other two department heads, signed the contract, Mr. Cousino said.

The ordinance that changes the employees to "at will" employees was approved 4-1, with Supervisor Bill Frey casting the dissenting vote.

Chief Hines was among recipients of the Monroe County chapter of the American Red Cross award for heroism and acts of courage, kindness, and unselfish deeds for actions made in 2008.

He received the award for rousing a sleeping man from a burning home in February, 2008, in Erie.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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