Tough Questions: Silence Over Public Safety Hire 11-29-2010 - WNEM TV 5

Tough Questions: Silence Over Public Safety Hire 11-29-2010

It’s a newly created job at one Mid-Michigan city seeking the right person to oversee the police and fire departments -- but the finalists for the public safety post are being kept under wraps.
WNEM TV5's Liz Gelardi took the Tough Questions to Saginaw’s City Hall to find out why the public isn't being let in on the process.
Darnell Early, the Saginaw city manager, told Gelardi he is interviewing two finalists for the job on Tuesday. But that's all he said about the candidates for the new public safety position.
Gelardi pressed Early for an answer regarding residents' rights to know who is in the running. “Well, some people request confidentiality,” said Early.
Up until now, Early has refused to say who the finalists for the job are. “Some people don't want the information public before they have the opportunity to prepare where they are for the fact that they're looking for other jobs,” said Early. “It's a professional way of handling the search.”
The new public safety director is a newly created position. The successful candidate will earn between $88,000 and $101,000 per year.
The city hired a firm to find applicants, which cost taxpayers about $16,000. So TV5 asked the city manager if taxpayers have the right to know the candidates. After all, the public knew the finalists when the city was selecting a police chief and a school superintendent.
“We're not impeding the taxpayer’s opportunity to receive value for their dollars, that's why we're doing this, that's why I’m going through this exercise, so we can better utilize their dollars,” said Early.
Taxpayers TV5 spoke with had mixed opinions on the apparent veil of secrecy.
“As far as me paying taxes and everything, I think we should be informed on what's going on,” said resident Cynthia Murry.
Some residents wanted to know, but others stand behind the city manager's decision.
“I'm confident that they’ll [make] the right choice because you've got to be confident in the people that you elect and the people you have [running] your city,” said another resident, James Graham.
The city manager insists this new position will help the city save money. “It's going to be a tremendous asset to our ability to help manager our ongoing costs for police and fire services,” said Early.
The city manager said he will make an announcement on the new hire sometime next week, possibly as soon as next Monday’s City Council meeting.
Early said he is redirecting existing funds to pay for the new position, because he insists, it will save the city money in the long run.
TV5 wants to know what you think: should the public be let in on the process as Saginaw picks a public safety director? Share your fast feedback right now on our Facebook page.
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