Village manager remains mum on chief's departure

What does it take for a well-regarded police chief to abruptly resign?
Becky Vargo
Mar 1, 2014

The Grand Haven Tribune submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the personnel file of former Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Chief Roger DeYoung to try to answer that question.

(You can read excerpts from the file in the Related Files (PDFs) below this story.)

The Tribune also requested a copy of the separation agreement between DeYoung and the two municipalities he served, but was denied that information. The Tribune is appealing that decision, noting that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in nondisclosure.

DeYoung, who has not responded to any requests for comment, resigned as police chief on Feb. 24. Spring Lake Village Manager Chris Burns confirmed that date was DeYoung’s official last day, although he had not been in the office since Feb. 14.

All parties signed a confidentiality clause as part of the separation agreement, so Burns has also declined to comment on the reason for DeYoung’s resignation.

“Mr. DeYoung was an at-will employee of the village, as am I,” Burns said. “At any time, either party can choose to end the employment relationship at which time a separation agreement is negotiated. In this particular case, Mr. DeYoung submitted his resignation, which was accepted by the village.”

DeYoung had worked for the department since 1988 and had been its chief for the past 10 years. He served under five village managers: Eric DeLong, Andrew Lukasik, Ed Koryzno, Ryan Cotton and Burns.

All of the reviews in DeYoung’s personnel file show that he was meeting or exceeding expectations in all categories every year until Burns took office in 2012.

The key exception was in late 2008 when he was suspended for operating a work vehicle after he had been drinking alcohol. The car went off the road in some slush and became stuck in the snow. An acquaintance stopped to help, and the unmarked police car lurched forward and struck the truck that was pulling it out of the snow.

DeYoung admitted that he had been drinking at the time, but believed he was under the legal limit. He also admitted that he had a drinking problem and agreed to attend counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous, and undergo random drug/alcohol tests.

DeYoung also signed a Last Chance Agreement with the village and city, which allowed him to remain police chief, but spelled out that he would be immediately terminated if he violated the agreement.

Burns was asked if DeYoung violated the Last Chance Agreement, but she declined to comment.

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

 

Comments

theQuin

I only wish we could see Ms. Burn's personnel file! Isn't it strange that the Chief met or exceeded expectations until she took office in 2012? The Village of Spring Lake tends to have managers that micro-manage and overstep their authority. Perhaps this is the case at this point.
And what does the Tribune not get about a legal confidentiality agreement? Lay off a good man.

cvocvo

I would think Ms. Burn's personnel file (at least a redacted version) should be available as a FOIA request just as Chief DeYoung's file was provided. Is it possible that rules are different for current employees vs past employees?

deeg

I don't understand how the village manager, a public servant, can refuse to give information to her employers, the taxpayers, regarding another public servant. Besides the drinking incident this article makes it sound like Chief DeYoung received stellar reviews until Ms Burns was hired. What changed? I hope the Trib doesn't drop this, the taxpayers in SL deserve to know what happened.

Barry Soetoro

Good work Trib - keep the pressure on. I especially enjoyed the Police Alcohol Enforcement Seminar certificate and his follow up letter about how much he learned to help him enforce alcohol related offenses.

cvocvo

I have always thought Chief DeYoung was a good guy and I wish him the best. Upon review of he personnel documents provided by the Tribune, it appears there may have been some *minor* problem. But it also appears that the bigger issue is the manager's attitude. I know it is always hard to judge these things with the limited documentation and context provided by FOIA releases, but at first glance it appear the manager was on a mission to badger the Chief.

I wish Roger the best in his future.

newspaperlawyer

It appears to me that Mr. DeYoung was certainly on the radar of the SL Village manager and I'm thinking for good reasoning. I would say that maybe the other managers or even the retired Chiefs of Police, or City Manager, or even the councils. were not watching over his personal use of his police vehicle. This has been a common practice by other departments over the years. I'm thinking that most departments don't charge their officers for use of the unmarked police vehicle. This was just one of many issues that the manager was using to force Mr DeYoung out. The only issue I have with the this reporting is that the GH tribune may of made a grave error by providing a copy of a personal bank check which has sensitive personal information on it which now everyone can see. Shame on Becky Vargo for not sterilizing this information prior to printing it in the news.

I have brought this issue up to a old council member from GH City and questioned why we keep paying for the gas and vehicle cost used for all the unmarked vehicles to drive to homes outside of the tri-cities area like Muskegon, Fruitport, and Grand Rapids area.

Tri-cities realist

I'm surprised the bank account info wasn't redacted in the info provided to the tribune. Ms. Vargo should have seen it and redacted it herself.

TooMuch

I'm glad to see you acknowledge the VM has had her claws out for the Chief, the Village Clerk before him and the DPW Director before that (replaced by her Cedar Springs guy Roger Belknap). She fired the Chief of Police at Cedar Springs and had trouble with her boss, the City Manager at her job before that. Christine is not Pristine. Looking through this article it appears to me that the Chief jumped through every hurdle she threw at him, even the possible illegal one of dragging up an old divorce record that apparently didn't include his daughter but she still demanded his college age daughter be taken off their insurance plan. Four memo's and emails in there say the Last Chance Agreement was for one year and there were never any problems with it until 2012 when Pristine Christine showed up waiving her wicked wand. He still did what she wanted even though he didn't have too, including logging his personal miles when she cut his gas miles according to these records. If you are going to make comments, read the documents. The Village signed a new contract with him at the end of 2013 and she appeared to be pushing him out the whole time. This is how she comes in a treats a person who has excellently served our Village for 26 years just before his retirement because what? It doesn't matter. It's a done deal with the Sheriff's Department I hear. Why don't we as citizens of the Village know about that? The Tribune needs to be following up on that story. Isn't the union now voided? You guys are next. Hold on to your pants and skirts.

Heydub

She prevented him adding his college-age daughter to his health insurance?! Who would tolerate that? She undoubtedly used the Village's resources to dig up his divorce papers, which would not even apply to a child over the age of 18. This is effective management?

Cinnabon119

Newspaper Lawyer,

Consider this regarding "take home vehicles." First of all, many of the "take home" cars are covered under a contractual labor agreement. Most, if not all, are command level positions driving these vehicles and require their quick response to police or fire calls. Most of the cars have concealed lights and sirens. These personnel are subject to call 24/7 and are not compensated for their emergency responses. They don't get overtime because they are salaried positions (FSLA Exempt). Their personal vehicles do not have the equipment needed to respond and the car is an exchange for no compensation for responding. If you were to compare the cost of a vehicle vs. paying overtime, the municipality comes out on top.

River Man

This is starting to smell foul.

I find it interesting how many people support the former chief and how few have good things to say about the Burns.

I encourage everyone to read the attached files.

Before reading the emails I was not sure why people wrote negative things about Burns, but I think I am starting to understand. Not sure that I would want to work with her after reading the emails.

From the emails you will see that Burns was a bit of a micro-manager. For example look at the ones on his car. In the real world the Chief is ALWAYS ON DUTY. With this in mind I WANT him to drive the car that has the resources he needs if the crap hits the fan. It is cheap insurance to know that the chief is ready to go.

I like her riding him about entering the mileage and then talking about the IRS...Burns is a piece of work.

I have worked for managers that made my life stink and I have wanted to drink. I have made the choice that I will not work for someone that treats me poorly. My respect for the chief has increased after getting an idea of the environment that he worked in.

Barry Soetoro

Yeah nothing like having the guy who is always on duty guesstimate his BAC to be .27.

cvocvo

I agree @RiverMan ... the more I read the more sympathetic I am toward Chief DeYoung. In the past I have heard people talk negatively about this village manager. I always wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and did not participate in the negative talk. I always assumed that most of the negative was founded in sour grapes spread by people who had worked with her in the past.

Now that I have read the actual email communications, I have lost a lot of respect for the current village manager. I hope the Trib will find out what is really going on. It sounds like a good man needs his name cleared. We all already know about the "snowbank" incident. Life goes on . . . this is something different.

gordbzz231

edited post

River Man

post before mine edited. So my comment no longer relevant.

Jenn61

Wow, as a United States Citizen, I think I can go to dinner when ever and where-ever I please. See you next Tuesday, Christine.

Barry Soetoro

Nice one Jenn but the "See you next Tuesday" needs to be in a different format for maximum effect and to be enjoyed by all...

Heydub

That's hilarious.

Heydub

Wow is right. Many words come to mind about Ms. Burns: ruthless, demonic, and dense. She thinks she is smarter than she is (I mean, look at her writing. It's atrocious. Take an English class, lady.).

Nothing in that file indicates the Chief did anything wrong since her hiring. Yet, he abruptly resigns amid endless speculation and her convenient lack of comment? It looks like he was just next on her list.

This is how the Village rewards the Chief's 26 years of service? By setting this witch loose? She is deterring anyone from wanting to work for Village. I certainly would not work for a boss like that. The council needs to get rid of her, but I am willing to bet they are too afraid of her to act.

I think the Village lost a talented and dedicated public servant, and that others employees should be worried. Only the Village's attorneys should be relieved. It looks like they will have plenty of work defending her actions.

gordbzz231

edited post

River Man

Did you read the emails? I don't think gender matters. If someone is treating you like crap, gender does not matter.

If my supervisor or co-worker has an hr issue with me I prefer them saying it to my face and not in a email. HR 101 tells you that when it is in an email you KNOW that they are trying to build documentation to get rid of you and not offer guidance or correction.

It is not like they worked in a different time zone!

My favorite part is that they are not planning to replace him because she has a plan...I sure am glad she was elected! With less staff maybe no need for a manager and she should resign next!

Cinnabon119

FYI, The Village Manager is not elected, but appointed. Just thought you would like to know.

Cinnabon119

FYI, The Village Manager is not elected, but appointed. Just thought you would like to know.

Gwen66

What are you insinuating Gordy? He turned her down so she went after him?

gordbzz231

I dont enough about the story to make an opinion, so i will withdraw my comments, thank you

Lanivan

Since Christine Burns has a history of letting staff go, it's probable that this was part of the "deal" when she was hired. Look at the Village board that interviewed and hired her. This action with the Chief may have been planned for some time. It's a whole lot easier to hire an outsider to come in and "trim costs".

Barry Soetoro

I thought the same thing but was going to use the term "take out the trash" since I'm not as smooth as you. This practice is fairly common in the private sector.

Gwen66

Except if you will recall he was the interim Village Manager at the time and he was part of the hiring process. If they wanted to let him go he was an at will employee, just do it. Don't drag a well respected employee's reputation through the mud after 26 years of service to the Village. From the tone of those emails, she had it after him like no other Managers before her. She has a history of it because that is her personality, obviously.

gordbzz231

This happened at the dealership i worked for, a new manager came in, employees that have been there for years are being let go, on the spot, clean out your desk and i suppose its happening more often than you think.

westmitten

I like the Chief and think it's all sounding fishy, but what was the state of the Village when Cotton left??? Maybe its all clean-up from here on out....

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