SAGINAW, MI – Traditionally, Saginaw’s city manager is invited to participate in the reception line congratulating police officers as they receive awards at the department’s annual awards and memorial service.
This year, Saginaw’s police union has asked two administrators not to participate: Saginaw City Manager Darnell Earley and Assistant City Manager for Public Safety Phil Ludos.
In an email to recently-appointed Police Chief Brian Lipe, Saginaw police officers union President Doug Wortley asked both administrators not be included in the program.
“It would be disingenuous on his part to thank the officers for a job well done while dismantling our department,” Wortley wrote in the email. “We want to honor our officers on a job well done, more important honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This can be accomplished without his involvement.”
But Earley said Friday, May 24, that they both plan on attending the event Tuesday, May 28, at the Temple Theatre.
“I have every intention of attending in my position as city manager,” he said. “The purpose of the ceremony is to honor the men and women living and deceased of the Saginaw Police Department. I will be speaking, with the intention of honoring and memorializing our police officers who have given so much to this community.”
Chief Lipe, who responded with an email in reply saying he was embarrassed that the exclusion of Ludos and Earley was even being suggested.
“I have higher expectations of you as a leader than this,” Lipe wrote. “The Mayor, the City Manager and the Assistant City Manager for Public Safety (as the leaders of the City of Saginaw) will be invited to attend and speak at the awards ceremony if the wish to do so. I expect that you and the members of this department will shake the hands of our leaders if they choose to show their gratitude for your services by standing in the greeting line to shake your hands.”
Wortley said the dissatisfaction with the city administration is not his alone.
“This isn’t just coming from me,” he said. “This is the majority of my membership that feels this way.”
Mayor Greg Branch said he agrees with the points Lipe made in his email, and said behavior like this on the part of the unions could block potential progress.
“I think they’re totally missing the point on this,” Branch said. “I think the continued insistence on making this personal is part of the reason that we’re not getting where we need to be. Though I understand the frustration that the police officers feel and I understand their anger.”
The mayor said he would like to see personal attacks set aside and both side act like professionals in dealings with one another.
“I know it’s difficult because the police, bless their hearts, are very passionate about what they do,” Branch said. “As hard as it may be for some people to believe, the city manager is very passionate about what he does. We’ve reached the point where those passions are in direct conflict with each other.”
Wortley said his membership does not take issue with the attendance of Ludos or Earley, or any member of the public. But he did the majority of officers felt it would be disingenuous for either to make remarks or shake the hands of those receiving awards Tuesday.
“Our problem isn’t with the chief or the mayor,” he said. “It’s with the top two administrators who have basically turned their backs on us for the entire year and now they want ot pat us on our backs. We don’t need their congratulations.”
The public is invited to attend the ceremony, set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 28. It will be held at the Temple Theatre Ballroom on the third floor of the building, 201 N. Washington.
The ceremony will honor officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, decorate officers who have demonstrated exceptional conduct and recognize citizens who have provided meritorious assistance to the police department.