Additional Thoughts (Feb 29, 2020) – City Administrator and Police Chief

Feb 29, 2020 | City Council

The following was originally published in my Feb 29, 2020 Newsletter in the “Additional Thoughts” section

Additional thoughts…

Since our last meeting, there has been significant community discussion around two specific topics: the separation agreement with our City Administrator (Howard Lazarus) and the administrative leave and investigation of our Police Chief, Michael Cox.

After Council approved the separation agreement for our City Administrator, I wrote about it here:
Statement Regarding Separation Agreement with City Administrator

There continues to be some confusion around the concept of “without cause” and why the City would opt to end a contract this way, triggering payment of severance. According the City Administrator’s employment contract, any separation “with cause” requires very specific and serious misconduct (e.g. fraud, felony, sexual misconduct), none of which has occurred. As Howard Lazarus told WEMU on February 20, 2020:

“Council has the absolute right under the charter by vote of the majority of council to replace the City Administrator. Council has the right to have leadership that they feel comfortable and confident in. When they feel that they have to make that change it doesn’t have to be for anything that caused it other than they would feel that they need to make a change. That’s what the discussion was and I respect their right to do that.”

“Council has the right to make a change in leadership. People who are in City and County management know that that’s part of the business. The average tenure for a city manager is three to five years and I’m about at four… it’s kind of the nature of the business.”

This week, the city welcomes Tom Crawford into the position of interim City Administrator. Mr. Crawford has been our Chief Financial Officer since 2004 and twice previously acted as interim City Administrator. I look forward to working with him.

On the topic of our city police chief, Michael Cox: it is worth noting that a process of complaint, administrative leave and investigation is intended to legally protect all parties. The City Attorney has advised Council not to engage in any speculation or public discussion criticizing aspects of the process as it occurred. However, members of our Independent Community Police Oversight Commission and other members of our community have raised concerns about the specific handling of this incident. Whether or not I am free to engage in it, I do hope that there is room for a broader conversation about the events of the last few weeks, particularly in the context of Independent Community Police Oversight Commission. All publicly available information on this issue — including the investigation report and response from Chief Cox — can be found here:

Update 3/2/2020: these files were also added to the Legistar link for DC-5: