2017-10-15 / Front Page

Oakley village allows police contracts to expire Nov. 8

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

OAKLEY - During its Oct. 10 meeting, the Oakley Village Council voted unanimously not to renew the police contracts.

Oakley Village president Richard Fish opened the discussion about the renewal of police contracts by saying, “I’m going to suggest that in the best interest of Oakley, we not renew the police contracts.”

He explained that [on Oct. 5] the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) raided the home of Oakley police chief Robert Reznick, in Swartz Creek. They removed an undisclosed number of firearms.

Fish didn’t have a lot of information about the raid itself. What he did know is that Reznick’s service revolver and other village property have not been not seized.

Trustee Cheryl Bolf asked, “As far as we know, this had nothing to do with the village?”

Fish didn’t think it had anything to do with the village, but didn’t know. “I have to look out for the village,” he said.

Councilman Norm Wolf asked, “So when is the contract up?”

“November,” Fish said. The village had just paid the police department’s insurance from donations received from the police.

Fish said he had talked with Reznick about the raid. He was told that the guns seized in the raid, including some antiques, belonged to his children. But they were registered in his name.

The council voted not to renew the police contracts, which expire on Nov. 8.

Resident/business owner Shannon Bitterman asked the council, “You said we’re not going to renew police contracts? His association with the village of Oakley is finished?”

Fish explained that Reznick’s contract expires Nov. 8.

Bitterman said, “Could we just pay him $500 and say goodbye now?”

Former councilman Francis Koski asked if the police department was shut down. Fish said, “I wouldn’t say that.” Officer Marc Ferguson was hired by the council; he doesn’t have a contract.

Koski wanted to make sure Reznick returns any and all village property he has.

Dennis Bitterman said, “We’re the victims of this police chief. Tell people the truth. Everybody who has been threatened by him, raise your hands.” (Several hands were raised)

Trustee Jennifer Hart said, “They’re all under contract until Nov. 8. [After that, Ferguson] will still be on since he doesn’t have a contract.”

After the council meeting, Fish took questions about the police situation.

When asked how he learned of the raid, Fish said, “Mr. Koski called me shortly after [the raid] started. He got a call from two different people advising him about the raid. It kind of set me back, them contacting a former councilman [about it].”

Fish was asked why Reznick didn’t attend the council meeting. Fish said, “I didn’t want him here when we had all the lawsuits. He was just told to stay away. Reznick has the reputation of rubbing people the wrong way.”

Fish said, “We don’t need a big police force, but do need a sense of security. I think we should ride this month out. We’re not saying the police department is done. But it looks that way.” He explained that Reznick created a self-funded police department through donations. Donations were received from business owners, police, doctors, and others. Reznick was the connection.

“Our whole, entire playscape was donated by a surgeon,” Fish said.

Fish walked through the park in Oakley with the surgeon, who could see this is a poor community. That’s why he donated the playscape.

Deputy Clerk Jim Frelitz explained that as a charitable contribution, it was a tax write off.

Fish said, “As long as we have a police department, the drama won’t end. I honestly don’t think we’ll have a police department.”

“Ironically, the village has never been contacted by the FBI or the ATF,” Fish said.

In related news, Koski took issue with the Oakley Village Council holding a special meeting on Sunday, Sept. 17, less than one week after the regular monthly meeting. Fish explained that the bill for the insurance on the police department was due and the council had just received a donation from the police department to pay it. The donations received from the police amounted to $22,500, which included not only money for the police department’s insurance, but also enough to cover the cost of tearing down a house on M-52 downtown, which had been partially destroyed by fire in March of 2014. The village had obtained ownership through tax reversion, but didn’t have the money to tear it down. In addition to covering the insurance, the police donation covered the cost of demolition, removing the safety hazard before Halloween.

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