The controversy over Mayor Mike Bell’s decision to rehire Police Chief Derrick Diggs fizzled on Tuesday when 10 of 12 Toledo City Council members went along with the idea.
The move allows Chief Diggs, 57, to end his short-lived retirement and collect a $71,000 annual pension in addition to his $102,132 annual salary.
After deductions, Chief Diggs’ severance check from the city, which includes unused sick and vacation time, will be approximately $74,232, city records show.
Councilmen Joe McNamara, an announced candidate for mayor, and D. Michael Collins, a former police union chief, were the dissenters.
They said they had no problem with Chief Diggs’ job performance, but wanted his immediate status limited to no more than acting chief. That, they said, would give the next mayor the option of keeping Chief Diggs on the job or bringing in a new police chief.
Mr. Collins noted that Toledo ran into legal troubles when former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner attempted to oust two former police chiefs, Marti Felker and Mike Navarre. The former resulted in a large settlement following Mr. Felker’s resignation in 1994.
The latter was resolved when former Chief Navarre’s replacement, Jack Smith, stepped down after a heated exchange with Mr. Finkbeiner in 2006. Chief Navarre was then reinstalled and served several more years. He is now Oregon’s police chief, also drawing a salary and large pension.
Police and fire chiefs cannot be replaced without just cause. They are not, by law, to be considered political appointees because of their public safety function.
Chief Diggs retired March 21. He was rehired by Mayor Bell, pending council approval, on March 25.
The chief said little about the controversy outside council chambers. He said he was pleased to continue as Toledo’s chief and that he felt the two dissenting councilmen “were only doing what they thought they had to do.”
Chief Diggs has been in charge of the department since October, 2011. His 35-plus years of service qualifies him for the maximum pension level he is entitled to get from Ohio’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, also called DROP.
The practice of rehiring public employees almost immediately upon retirement has become more common in recent years as maximum pension levels are attained. The risk to the employee is not knowing if approval will be granted by all parties.
“I think what we’re doing is keeping the security of the city,” Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson said.
Mr. McNamara issued a statement that alluded to the rehiring practice, known as double-dipping.
“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,” the statement said.
Mr. Collins said he supported Mr. McNamara’s motion because it “is in the best interest of the city to avoid a future circumstance.”
Also Tuesday, council:
● Took no action on Mr. Bell’s request to have $380,000 allocated for a data-driven project being undertaken by the police department. It uses computer modeling to help predict crimes, based on previous activity.
● Deferred a decision on allocating $250,000 for Police Athletic League programs planned on the site of the former Leverette Middle School, 1111 Manhattan Blvd. Councilmen said they want Chief Diggs to reconsider using money from a police trust fund instead of asking for the money to come from one for parks and recreation.
● Recommended that the Ohio Liquor Control Commission allow licenses held by Remy’s Gentlemen’s Club on Matzinger Road and O’Fives Bar & Grill on Starr Avenue to expire. Police have cited a consistent pattern of violence at both establishments, including eight shootings since 2010 at Remy’s. They also claim to have evidence of illegal sexual activity on couches in a back room of Remy’s.
● Reviewed a proposal for higher mayoral and council salaries starting in 2014. The salary for mayor would be reinstated at $136,000 a year. It was reduced to $122,400 four years ago. Compensation for councilmen would rise from the current salary of $27,500 a year to $32,500 a year, the first increase in more than a decade. A standing committee reviews salaries. The proposal is to be considered this spring.
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.