2014-09-14 / News

Oakley council votes to shut down police department

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

OAKLEY – After many months of failed votes to shut down the Oakley Police Department, Oakley Village Trustees Francis “Fuzz” Koski and Dennis Bitterman succeeded on Sept. 9.

During the September meeting of the Oakley Village Council, Koski asked to amend the minutes of the previous meeting to reflect that Trustee John Lorencz suggested the council shut down the police department until the village has insurance to cover it. But then Koski, Bitterman and Wolfe voted against approving the minutes, as well as the change Koski requested. Those same board members also refused to accept the agenda.

Oakley Village President Pro-Tem Susan Dingo reported that the village was within two days of obtaining liability insurance for the village’s police department when Koski sued Dingo.

Dingo also reported that Bitterman contacted the new insurance carrier, Doeren Mayhew; after which the company withdrew its offer to provide insurance coverage for the Oakley police department.

“We’re going to have to start over, start a new process. We’re still self insured,” Dingo said.

Oakley Village Clerk Cheryl Bolf confirmed that the village has general liability insurance and village property coverage.

“We were cancelled from the previous insurance company because of lawhsuits and trustees contacting insurance company. We worked very hard to get insurance back,” Bolf stated.

Koski contends that since the village doesn’t have insurance for police, they should do as Lorencz suggested at the previous meeting; shut down the police department until they have insurance.

Dingo asked Koski why he keeps wrecking the village’s chances for getting insurance for the police.

Koski said the village residents already pay for the sheriff’s department. He talked about how Brady Township opted out of the Oakley Village Police Department and hasn’t complained about the service they’re receiving from the county.

“We have to have insurance for police,” Koski stated.

Lorencz asked Koski if he could not call insurance companies long enough for the village to get coverage. “Can you guys just get along for a month? Every one of these meetings, I’m in the hot seat. We’ve got to get along for 30 days. The girls are trying to get insurance and you [prevent that from happening],” Lorencz said.

Bitterman said, “I don’t think you should run a village without insurance.”

Dingo said, “If Chief [Robert] Reznick and his reservists leave, we won’t get others.”

Lorencz said, “I’m not going to vote on police. Let the new board [decide].”

Bitterman said if anything happens with the police, there will be lawsuits.

Lorencz pointed out that there are three years remaining on the police officers contract.

Dingo said, “You realize, [there’s] no police for the Bike Run this weekend.”

Bitterman said the sheriff’s department would handle it and motioned to shut down the Oakley Village Police Department.

Dingo responded, “What Dennis? Forever?”

Bitterman said, “Close down the police department along with reservists until we have insurance.”

Lorencz asked, “Can we self insure?”

Dingo said, “We can also be sued for not having police.”

There was a roll call vote on whether to shut down the village police department until they have insurance. The roll call vote was Bitterman, Koski, Lorencz, Schuster, and Wolfe “yes”; and one “no” vote from Dingo.

After the vote, an unidentified man in the audience swore at the council for what they had just done then asked, “Who is going to protect us during the bike run?”

Bitterman asked the uniformed police officers at the meeting if they were just going to let the man talk like that during the council meeting.

Officer Don Simpson stood up, smiled and said, “We don’t work here anymore.” Officer Simpson and Officer Joaquin Guerrero walked out of the meeting.

The following day, the Tri-County Citizen contacted Sheriff William Federspiel for a comment. The Sheriff Federspiel said, “We serve the entire county, whether they have a police department or not. We’ll be there if they need us.” He also said 20 of the 27 municipalities in the county don’t have their own police departments.

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