Saline City Council voted unanimously to spend $24,500 on an executive search service to help the city find its next police chief. At Monday’s council meeting, council also voted to strike Mayor Brian Marl’s task force to sift through qualified applicants and recommend no more than three finalists to council.
Police Chief Larry Hrinik plans to retire in November, ending his 43-year law enforcement career.
Council awarded the contract to The Mercer Group, which bid $24,500 for the service. Michigan Municipal League Enhanced Search Services bid $19,000 on the job. SGR bid $27,000/
City Manager Todd Campbell recommended The Mercer Group because over the cheaper MML service because it has more experience locating police chiefs.
“Any city hire is certainly very important, but hiring the right police chief is just as important as hiring the right city manager – certainly one that’s qualified but also one that fits,” Campbell said.
In the near future the city will schedule a meeting to ask the public what it wants to see in their next police chief.
Mayor Brian Marl asked council members to start checking calendars and suggesting possible dates for a community open house. Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar said she hoped the open house would be scheduled soon and the city would use every means at its disposal invite the community.
“It’s a really important decision,” she said.
Employees in the department and members of council will also be consulted.
Councillor Janet Dillon questioned a couple unflattering comments in a reference provided by Mercer. She also noted that the populations of the cities referenced by Mercer were much larger than Saline.
“Do we have concerns about that?” Dillon asked.
Campbell replied that Mercer has extensive experience with communities of all sizes.
Dillon also pointed out that none of the communities referenced by Mercer were in Michigan.
“You don’t think MML being Michigan-based pulls more weight?” she asked.
Campbell said he thought Mercer’s experience hiring police chiefs was more important.
Marl agreed and reported that he’d made calls about the backgrounds of the three firms the city considered. He said that he’d received negative feedback about the MML’s executive search service.
Councillor Dean Girbach questioned the out-of-state portion of the bid, which amounts to $8,000 of the $24,500 bid.
“Are the recruiters local?” he asked.
Campbell replied that they were from outside the state.
Mercer will cover the travel costs for any finalists and semifinalists traveling to Saline for interviews.
When the city went through a similar process that resulted in hiring Larry Hrinik, it received 40 applicants.
Council also approved the members of the task force that will recommend finalists to city council. It will include Marl, TerHaar, Councillor Jack Ceo (former Saline Deputy Police Chief), Campbell, Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth and Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Commander Marlene Radzik
“I’m very pleased with the way the interview task force came together,” Marl said. “It’s a nice mix of council, staff, the city manager and some law enforcement individuals.”
Marl noted that the law enforcement officials have local roots. Toth grew up in Saline and Radzik lives here now. And because Ceo has spent his career in law enforcement, half the task force is experienced in the field.
There was no discussion about the need for an executive search service, although Mayor Marl has previously said one was used by former Mayor Gretchen Driskell and the previous council for the process that resulted in the hiring of Hrinik.
In his memo to council, Campbell wrote that city staff believes it is important to utilize a professional firm to cast a large enough net to attract the highest and best quality candidates.