Dubious double duty

Hamtramck police officer Dennis Whittie is pretty good at lawyering.

Whittie’s complaint, citing applicable state law, led to Mel Turner stepping down as Highland Park’s director of public safety last month.

Ramona Henderson, Highland Park’s emergency financial manger, appointed Turner to the position in 2001. He was paid between $70,000 and $80,000 by the financially beleaguered city, according to Whittie.

But Turner was already serving in the same capacity for Hamtramck, another destitute city. That job paid $74,000, according to city records. Hamtramck’s emergency financial manager, Louis Schimmel, appointed Turner to that post in 2001.

Talk about double-dipping from the pockets of the poor!

In a letter to state Attorney General Michael Cox, Whittie said that Hamtramck and Highland Park entered into a contract to share some fire department resources. In each city, it is up to the public safety director — who oversees both police and fire operations — to decide how to allocate those resources. Consequently, Whittie argued, Turner could not properly handle the competing interests of the two cities paying him.

Whittie also complained to Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan. Schimmel then told Turner to choose which city he wanted to serve; Turner resigned as public safety director of Highland Park in April.

But Whittie isn’t done. When Hamtramck’s police chief retired in 2001, Schimmel did not fill the position and instead appointed Turner as the police commissioner. But since Turner’s job as public safety director already requires him to oversee the police department, Whittie argues Turner is violating the Incompatible Offices Act, a state law prohibiting people from serving in conflicting offices. Whittie says that since the police commissioner reports to the public safety director, Turner is serving as his own boss. Which is nice work, when you can find it.

Whittie also filed a complaint about this situation with Cox and Duggan in March. He said Cox told him that it was a local matter for Duggan to decide.

Duggan did not return News Hits’ calls. Neither did Schimmel or Turner. In the case of the latter, at least, now that he’s no longer logging all those hours in Highland Park, you’d have thought he’d have the time to call back.

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