Is Chief Dan Miller finished?
“There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.”
— Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth.”
The opening lines of the 1967 rock classic seem appropriate for what’s been happening here since Friday, when the news broke virtually everywhere that Wayland Police Chief Dan Miller will not face any charges in connection with an investigation of alleged improprieties in handling items confiscated from wrongdoers.
The Michigan State Police and the Michigan Attorney General’s office announced they would not seek any charges against Miller, but as of five days later, Wayland’s police chief was not back on the job. Worse yet, a Penasee Globe story published on-line Tuesday even hinted that Miller may not be welcome. The story reported that interim City Manager Terry Hofmeyer said if Miller reported for work he would be sent away and it suggested Hofmeyer is in no hurry to examine the paperwork that confirms Miller committed no wrongdoing.
This seems troubling and disconcerting. Miller has been on paid leave of absence since Jan. 3, when he was informed of the investigation. So essentially he has been receiving his salary at taxpayers’ expense despite not performing the duties of his job. This is understandable during an investigation that might have the potential of booting the public employee in question, but now that everything has been concluded, it seems that City Council members and city officials now should be insisting almost immediately that Miller get back to work and earn that salary. He’s been absent from duty for more than two and a half months, and prolonging the public’s agony and expense is unwise public policy.
Or, the question must be asked, is there somewhere another shoe about to drop? The Globe story hinted there was some question about it, that “Hofmeyer said today that he did not know when, or even if, Miller would be reinstated.”
Perhaps it is troubling to some that Miller was investigated and then cleared of charges back in 2003. Perhaps there are some who don’t believe Miller should continue as police chief, a job he has held for more than a quarter of a century. Perhaps some believe there is a “Miller Mafia” in Wayland because Dan is police chief and brother Joe is fire chief. Perhaps too much power concentrated in too few hands?
In my sordid and lengthy journalism career, I have seen a lot of public dances that mask what’s really going on behind closed doors. I honestly don’t have any evidence that something is afoot here, but I have grave worries that public officials are not being straight with the public when they take their time in reinstating a supervisory employee on the public payroll who sits idle while there is work to be done.
Current City Council members won no accolades from the public last fall when they sacked the previous city manager and didn’t adequately explain why. The time has come to either bring back the police chief or send him packing, and please, this time tell us why. The public trust is at stake.