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Local Media Used As A Collective Patsy to Mislead Public About Police Dispatcher Outsourcing Facts

Documents released by Ann Arbor city officials in response to a recent FOIA request revealed that the March 31, 2011 meeting to discuss “police dispatch” was set up via email and included Ann Arbor’s interim City Administrator Tom Crawford, management consultant Kerry Laycock, and Gregory Dill, director of administrative services for Washtenaw County. By April, the group of three had expanded, and precautions to guard secrecy were put into place.

The weekly meetings were vaguely called “County Collaboration” to hide the nature of the group’s work. FOIAed emails members of the group sent to each other reveal that they met away from Ann Arbor City Hall in order to avoid tipping off curious staffers who might wonder why Ann Arbor’s Police Chief, the Washtenaw County Sheriff and 11 other high-level county and city staffers might be holding weekly meetings. Notes leaked to A2Politico from the group’s secret meetings reveal that the group members did not distribute documents electronically to, perhaps, thwart efforts to FOIA information.

Notes from the secret County Collaboration meeting held on April 20, 2011 have management consultant Kerry Laycock explaining to those gathered (Diane Heidt, Mark Ptaszek, Greg Dill, Nancy Niemela, Richard Martonchik, Barnett Jones, Tom Crawford, Robyn Wilkerson, Dieter Heren, Jerry Clayton, Greg Bazick and Marc Breckenridge) that the “purpose of today’s meeting is to begin discussions around establishing a timeline of major milestones starting from implementation date and moving backwards. Would like to leave here with a regular meeting schedule.”

According to notes from the same meeting, “paper copies” of documents distributed to the group were “limited as well due to confidentiality.”

The last precaution didn’t work. A full set of notes from the meetings held in April, May and June was leaked to A2Politico.

A follow up FOIA of city documents and emails relating to the outsourcing of AAPD dispatch services to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department did not include a full copy of the leaked notes, but only a single page of the leaked notes dated June 8, 2011. That page refers to a final copy of a joint press release issued to, among others, the Washtenaw County Commissioners and local media. Several Ann Arbor Council members, unaware that negotiations had been initiated months before, received the press release which stated that the city and county were “exploring” options, and that talks had “discussions had begun anew.”

When A2Politico asked County Commissioners via email if they’d been aware of the meetings held between Ann Arbor city staff and county staff to implement the outsourcing of the city’s police dispatch services, Commissioner Kristin Judge emailed back that information about the proposed outsourcing had been made public in June. When asked whether she’d known about the meetings of the County Collaboration in April and May, Commissioner Judge did not reply.

Local Media Used, Manipulated, and Even Lied To—”How Should I Respond To This?”

The news broke on June 8, 2011: The AAPD and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department “explore” the idea of outsourcing city dispatch services to Washtenaw County.

AnnArbor.com’s Ryan Stanton wrote on June 9, 2011: “After nearly two decades and countless attempts by previous administrations, city and county officials said in a joint press release that discussions have begun anew to consolidate the city’s dispatch function with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.”

Stanton plagiarized the city press release which begins: “After nearly two decades and countless attempts by previous administrations, city and county officials said in a joint press release that discussions have begun anew to consolidate the city’s dispatch function with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.”

FOIAed documents show the extent to which city staffers went to hide the truth.

On June 9, 2011 Ryan Stanton sent an email message to Deputy Chief of Police Greg Bazick in which Stanton inquires about a comment posted in response to his June 9th post about the “renewed discussions.”

At 1:43 p.m. on June 9, 2011 Stanton writes:

Greg,

Is the following appended statement from an AnnArbor.com reader true?

“At approximately 4 p.m. Deputy Chief Greg Bazick gave notice to each dispatcher that their positions were to be eliminated on January 1st….”

Ten minutes later, Bazick sent this email message to Police Chief Barnett Jones, Tom Crawford, Nancy Niemela, and the city’s HR head Robyn Wilkerson:

How should I respond to this?

Ryan Stanton posted this response from Tom Crawford:

Tom Crawford said the idea that 21 dispatchers will lose their jobs Jan. 1 is a “nasty rumor” and no such decisions have been made. He said two dispatchers were notified they’re going to be laid off July 1 as part of cuts identified in the city’s 2011-12 budget, but nobody else in dispatch has received any kind of notice from the city that they will be losing their jobs.

In Stanton’s June 9, 2011 piece, Crawford tells AnnArbor.com that, “it’s too early to say if or how many dispatch employees might lose their jobs as part of the consolidation if it’s approved.”

Notes from the April 20, 2011 County Collaboration meeting show Crawford lied to AnnArbor.com to hide the extent of the damage to be done to the AAPD dispatch group. Crawford, Jones and others discuss exactly how many dispatchers will lose their jobs, how many Ann Arbor dispatchers will be interviewed for county positions, and how many county positions there will be.

At the April 20, 2011 County Collaboration meeting Tom Crawford tells the group that, “January 1, 2012 would be a desirable implementation date” for the outsourcing. Meeting notes from the same meeting reveal that Chief Barnett Jones asked the group if there was “any other way besides lay off and reapply.” There was not. The plan, then, would be to lay off all of the AAPD dispatchers and have them reapply to work for the county, a move that would strip them of their jobs—a fact that Tom Crawford tells Stanton is a “nasty rumor.”

AnnArborChronicle.com “Sits Down” to A Scripted Interview

In the piece posted to the AnnArborChronicle.com about the “idea” of outsourcing AAPD dispatch, the title of the June 16, 2011 post says it all: “Ann Arbor Washtenaw: Joint 911 Dispatch?” David Askins, author of the piece, presents the outsourcing as a question.

Askins writes:

So The Chronicle sat down with Ann Arbor chief of police Barnett Jones and Washtenaw County sheriff Jerry Clayton to walk through the possible consolidation, under which the city would contract with the county for dispatch service. Based on that interview, it’s clear that it’s not just talk.

The city and county dispatchers are already working in the same building in the same room –  on the second floor of Fire Station #1, across Fifth Avenue from the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron. Clayton has developed a staffing model for implementation. And over the next few weeks, Jones will be sitting down with the police officers union – dispatchers are members – to discuss the proposal. Jones said that from the standpoint of collective bargaining, a consolidated dispatch operation could not be blocked by the union.

But Jones and Clayton will not have the final say. That decision will be made by the Ann Arbor city council and the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

Using the AnnArborChronicle.com was a part of the plan as revealed by County Collaboration meeting notes.

Those notes reveal that the city’s PR machine planned to contact Mary Morgan (Publisher of AnnArborChronicle.com) and arrange for an interview. The AAChronicle.com did not just “sit down” with AAPD Chief Barnett Jones. The members of the County Collaboration group planned to use the site. The interview spread misinformation and does not reveal the crucial fact that the County Collaboration group had been working toward a pre-determined Janaury 1, 2012 implementation date at the behest of just five members of Ann Arbor City Council.

The AnnArborChronicle’s ernest interview of Police Chief Jones and Washtenaw County Sheriff Clayton that presents the idea of outsourcing as a question is laughable in light of the secret meeting notes where County Collaboration meeting member Tom Crawford (Ann Arbor’s CFO) tells his colleagues: “the city is in no matter what.”

At the May 11, 2011 meeting of the County Collaboration group, Greg Bazick, Ann Arbor’s Deputy Police Chief, tells those present that, “City Council in A2 response was favorable (labor committee only—5 out of 11 have been told).”

Ann Arbor City attorney Nancy Niemela seconds Bazick’s statement. She tells the group, “labor committee enthusiastic about the idea and are all set to move forward.”

Askins interview includes this: “If the consolidation of dispatch operations is implemented, the math doesn’t work in favor of the Ann Arbor police dispatchers.” FOIAed emails reveal that Askins clearly doesn’t know the half of it, and that is, perhaps, exactly the kind of press coverage a group like the County Collaboration needs from the AnnArborChronicle.com.

AAPD Ann Arbor Police Department Sergeant Ed Dreslinski, in a June 9, 2011 email to management consultant Kerry Laycock, Chief Barnett Jones, and Greg Bazick reveals what Askins won’t ever learn in the carefully scripted sit-down with Jones and Clayton. Dreslinski writes, “the current tract is for AAPD dispatch to be taken over WCSD is catastrophic to AAPD personnel.”

Ann Arbor’s CFO and City Attorney Suggest a Way Around Full Council Vote & Public Hearing

The members of the Ann Arbor City Council’s Labor Committee (John Hieftje, Fourth Ward Council members Marcia Higgins and Margie Teall and Second Ward Council members Tony Derezinski and Stephen Rapundalo) are at the heart of this attempt to thwart governmental transparency, skirt public process, avoid scrutiny and manipulate city government. These five Council members have neither the legal standing, nor does the city’s Charter give them the power  to mandate or implement the outsourcing of citizen services without a majority vote of their Council colleagues, and certainly not without public hearings.

Hearings would, undoubtedly, be contentious as the Police Officer’s Association could, potentially, air enough dirty laundry to pressure Council into backing down on its desire to outsource dispatch services. Council members Anglin and Kunselman can’t be counted on to go along quietly. Kunselman, in particular, asks questions that put staffers on the spot. At a May 2011 County Collaboration meeting, Tom Crawford and a city attorney offer a shocking solution to the group.

Ann Arbor City Attorney Nancy Niemela and Crawford suggested that the contract could be slipped through without a public hearing or even a vote of the whole City Council. According to notes from the May 11, 2011 meeting, they both suggest, “may not need full council — may be a memo approving contract. (Working session worst case scenario — other than that ever two weeks there’s a committee.”)

It’s a chilling suggestion that betrays an equally chilling disregard for governmental transparency on the part of a city attorney and the city’s Chief Financial Officer.

The June 2011 press release is the result of months of illicit meetings in which city and county staffers actively negotiated rents, discussed the disposal of of city-owned equipment, and even assigned the task of crafting a contract that City Council never voted to have crafted. The local news coverage concerning the outsourcing of a city service which meeting notes suggest has been mandated and approved in secret by a small group of Council members, went smoothly and was uniformly positive.

It is clear that local media were manipulated, and that important details about the outsourcing plan were withheld, including that it is a done deal. That AnnArbor.com and AnnArborChronicle.com were used as a a pair of patsy publications is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s clear from FOIAed documents and notes from meetings that the methods employed by County Collaboration to keep their work secret, to mislead the public, and to do the bidding of a handful of Council members without the assent of the other members of Council, is the rule and not the exception. 

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Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=9761

5 Comments for “Local Media Used As A Collective Patsy to Mislead Public About Police Dispatcher Outsourcing Facts”

  1. The emails disclosed through the FOIA request mentioned in this article are available on the Neighborhood Alliance web site. They are attached as two pdf files, “Foia-email-Dispatch 1.pdf” and “Foia-email-Dispatch 2.pdf at the bottom of this page:

    http://www.a2na.org/current-issues/public-safety/police

    The FOIA request merely asked for documents that had previously been disclosed to another
    requester. As a result, the FOIA response did not cite to the FOIA exceptions that were used to
    justify the redaction of content in the emails.

  2. Good story but I agree with Fred.

    You can’t plagiarize a press release.

  3. @Joe and @Fred thanks for the kind words. Fred, it is never customary or acceptable to simply copy and paste someone else’s words.

  4. Scott Walker says out loud what he is going to do, does it, is
    responsible for half of the country’s net job gains last month
    and gets reamed for the effort.

    Here in Ann Arbor, reduction are attempted in cloaked
    secrecy and the public pays no attention.

    Sorry, I like Scott’s style way better!

    Nice journalism Pat!

  5. Good article but, in fairness to Ryan Stanton, you can’t plagiarize a press release.

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