Language of city charter under scrutiny

IMLAY CITY — As Imlay City Commissioners mull the possible dissolution of the Imlay City Police Department, questions have arisen about the legality and legitimacy of such a proposition.

Some residents have posed the issue to the Tri-City Times, citing language in the city charter regarding the existence of a police department.

They allude to Section 6.2 in the city charter, which states that “The commission shall maintain a city police force under the direction of the city manager, to enforce all laws and ordinances and to preserve peace and good in the city.”

If the city were to disband the department, it could require an amendment to the city charter; which in turn would mandate a vote by city residents.

Michigan’s Home Rule City Act details how amendments to a city charter are to be handled, stating “if the amendment is proposed by the legislative body of the city (city commission), the amendment shall be submitted to the electors of the city at the next regular municipal or general state election, or at a special election to be held not less than 60 days after the proposal of the amendment.”

However, Imlay City Manager Craig Horton believes the city has the legal right to disband the police department and contract with another law enforcement agency.

“The city has consulted with legal counsel,” Horton said on Monday. “They feel confident that the city has the ability to contract with the county should that be the decision of the city commission after exploring all information presented.”

Thus far, that information has not been provided by Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna; nor has the county presented an official proposal comparing costs and services.

The city currently pays $1.3 million annually for 24-7 police coverage.

Time could be of the essence, as the city’s current contract with the Imlay City Police Department expires on June 30, 2021.

Horton has reported that discussion about contracting with the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department came up during a recent meeting between McKenna and members of the city’s ad hoc police chief search committee.

The committee’s role had initially been to find a successor for Police Chief Scott Pike, who steps down on April 30.

In recent days, Horton and Mayor Joi Kempf have stressed that no action will be taken by the city commission until after they have had the opportunity to review the Sheriff Department’s proposal.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.