SAGINAW, MI — Saginaw Sheriff William Federspiel said he went into a meeting Monday, April 8, with the city of Saginaw's administrative team hopeful that he would hear a new idea for partnering to fight crime.
But what Federspiel heard from City Manager Darnell Earley and his staff, he said, was more of the same.
"Basically they were there to get me to say yes to the 80-plus-four model and then they wanted us to take it back to the council to vote on it," Federspiel said.
The policing model being pursued by the city would staff 80 full-time officers and four part-time officers, a staffing level the sheriff has maintained is not enough to properly police the city.
The sheriff said Earley gave 15-20 minutes of background information and then handed the meeting over Assistant City Manager for Public Safety Phil Ludos, who advocated the sheriff consider the 80-officer contract proposed by the city administration in 2012.
It appeared to be an attempt to sell the same idea that had already been clearly rejected, Federspiel said
"We have this gap," he said. "Darnell believes the 80-plus-four is the best financial model for the city. He wants me to believe it. But I don't believe it."
Earley asked for the meeting after Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel, in an email sent three weeks ago, said no to the 80-officer proposal.
- Email from Federspiel saying "no" — sent March 18
- Response from Earley asking for meeting — sent March 26
At the table Monday was Earley and his management team, Federspiel, Saginaw County Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Hanley, County Controller Robert Belleman and Courts and Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Cheryl Hadsall.
Federspiel pointed out the notable absence of anyone from the city's labor unions or any representatives from the general public.
Hanley and the sheriff have both maintained that one of the biggest blockades to any negotiations is contractual obligations to the city's two police unions, which currently hold contracts running through June 2014.
"We continue to be very concerned about the labor dispute at the city," Hanley said.
"The county currently sees no path forward," -Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Hanley
According to the Saginaw police officers' union president, the city administration has not made a good-faith effort to negotiate cost savings ideas with the union, while city officials claim the union has yet to bring any significant cost savings to the bargaining table. The unions have also filed a grievance claiming the city is in violation of the current contracts by attempting to negotiate a contract with Federspiel.
Hanley said the city manager made it clear that the labor issues were purely the city's concern. But Hanley said he pointed out those issues would become the county government's concern as well, if they were to begin negotiating a contract with the city.
Hadsall said the group talked for more than an hour, though no decisions resulted.
"We're all on the same page that something needs to be done," she said. "No doors were closed. I think that is important."
Hanley said the county asked for additional time for staff to take another look at the proposal, since Belleman is relatively new to the position.
The city manager asked for a final answer by Friday, April 12. Hanley said that it will take longer than that, but expects to respond to City Hall by the end of April.
"He said he wanted to know what to bring back to his city council," Hanley said. "I told him to tell them, 'Assume the status quo.' The county currently sees no path forward."
The city manager's backup plan — which could become part of the budget Earley is required to present to City Council by the end of April — is staffing cuts to a 55-officer police department and a 35-firefighter fire department.
For police, the reduction would revert the city back to the same staffing level Saginaw's department had in 1910. The fire department would also be pushed back to decades-old staffing levels, and two of the city's four fire stations would likely be closed.
A representative from MLive asked to attend the meeting Monday, but was told by Belleman the meeting would be closed to the public in an attempt to encourage more open discussion.
"I thought maybe they would come in with a different proposal," Federspiel said. "Nothing has changed since the last time I said no."
Earley was not available for comment after the meeting Monday.