By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Suspended Police Chief Chad Hayse was terminated by a unanimous City Council vote Aug. 30 following five-and-a-half hours of hearings over two days on five counts of charges.
Following the termination vote, Hayse said it has been an honor to serve the citizens of Melvindale, and he was sorry he was not allowed to complete his career in the city.
Hayse declined to say whether he would take legal action against the city.
Mayor Stacy Striz said she was unsure whether Hayse would file a lawsuit, but said the city was prepared for it if he did.
The charges, all of which which Hayse denies, include:
• Posting political and personal comments on an official city social media page.
• Misleading the public safety commission and city council about a 911 equipment upgrade delay and details about a possible dispatch merger with Dearborn.
• Instructing officers regarding the usage of towing services contrary to the enforcement of the uniform traffic code.
• Failure to properly document an officer’s suspension in writing.
• The use of profanity, vulgarity and slanderous statements directed toward elected and appointed public officials.
For each count, Hayse, without the presence of legal counsel, produced witnesses and documents countering the specific allegations of each count.
Conflicting officer testimony throughout the hearing confirmed and denied the charges.
It was unresolved who posted specific comments on the Melvindale Police Department official Facebook page. Hayse produced documents indicating that some comments attributed to the police page were actually on a closed city FB discussion page, Melvindale It Takes A Village.
Bob Hecht, an outside supplier of radio system technology, including police dispatch consoles, testified that information technology problems continues to delay the installation of upgraded 911 dispatch equipment for all impacted area communities, and Melvindale’s installation delay was not intentional.
Hayse said he supplied documentation about two Detroit-based towing companies, Gene’s Towing Service, 7900 Dix, and Goch and Sons, 750 S. Deacon St., under consideration to the city council when the contract was up for bid. None of the council members acknowledged receiving the document.
Raymond Guzall, a attorney hired by the city to conduct the hearing, did not allow Hayse to retrieve the document from his department computer because of his suspension.
Officers provided conflicting testimony about Hayse’s alleged orders to minimize Goch’s towing runs. Tows are primarily prompted by moving traffic violations by unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
Sgt. Patrick Easton, who said Hayse made profane comments about Goch, admitted to having a personal relationship with the business owner.
Hayse provided statistical data showing an increase in tows during Goch’s contract period. He also said an officer has the discretion to park a car as opposed to towing it until it can be retrieved by a third party, such as the vehicle’s licensed owner or a licensed, insured driver.
Guzall said Hayse’s practice of requesting gender, age and race information from Cpl. Matt Furman before the approval of towing a vehicle as a result of a traffic stop was illegal.
Hayse said it was needed because discretion was needed to prevent vulnerable people from being left at risk on the side of the road or exposed to weather conditions.
Furman countered by saying the city was at risk if he allowed an unlicensed or uninsured driver to continue to operate the vehicle, because if they were in a subsequent injury accident, the Police Department and city could be held responsible.
Hayse said his alleged failure to document Furman’s suspension in writing was a result of him waiting for advice from City Attorney Lawrence Coogan on how to proceed. Coogan contended his responses were adequate and timely, an assertion Hayse belied.
Hayse’s alleged use of profanity, vulgarity and slander with respect to elected and city officials was a hotly contested issue, with officers providing contradictory testimony.
Some officers said the Police Department environment was “toxic,” while others denied it being stressful.
Easton, who testified that the work environment was “hostile,” admitted he told Hayse that he was his “best and favorite chief” simply to “mend fences.”
The profanity, vulgarity and slander charges were among the most contentious. The count contended that Hayse said certain city officials were “corrupt” and “on the take.” It also listed vulgar and profane names Hayse allegedly used in reference to the mayor, which he denied.
Guzall read a claim that Hayse stored his personal boat in an empty evidence garage for more than a year, which Hayse confirmed. He also admitted to using a city vehicle one time to move the boat when his personal tow-capable vehicle was being repaired.
Following the hearing, Striz said that based on officer testimony and reading the complaints, she was not surprised by the council’s decision to terminate Hayse, saying their decision was not based on one specific charge but on a compilation of them.
“We’ve had some ongoing problems in the department over the years,” Striz said, “and it just naturally progressed to the point where we needed to take some action.”
She said there are several officers in the department who are qualified to assume the role of police chief. She did not indicate when it would be filled.
The Public Safety Commission, which has the responsibility to appoint a new police chief per city charter, meets at 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month. The next meeting is Sept. 13
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)