Friday, July 06, 2007

Major Mistake Free DPD: Chief Opens Public Till For Pal

Laughter erupted when [DPD deputy chief Ronald H.] Hodge said he didn't "recall that the Durham Police Department has been involved in something where we made major mistakes in the past five years." - Brianne Dopart, The Herald-Sun (June 6, 2007)

"Police chief adds adviser to advance his goals" - The News & Observer (May 31, 2003)

Police Chief Steve Chalmers has hired a temporary adviser to help him with organizational development, departmental planning and public relations at cost of $12,000 -- roughly a third of the starting salary of a Durham police officer.

Asa Spaulding Jr., 68, former chairman of the Durham County Republican Party and a one-time Durham mayoral candidate, was hired May 27 for the new, eight-week position that didn't require advertisement. His initial assignment is to implement a job evaluation system for 36 high-ranking police officers and senior administrators in the department. The department has 23 vacancies among its 454 sworn officers.

Chalmers said he needed the $60-an-hour consultant to distribute crime information to the public and quickly provide the media "more accurate and timely information," and to help him fulfill his goals for the department. Spaulding, a longtime civic activist and former secretary of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, served on a citizens' committee set up by former Police Chief Teresa Chambers.

"I thought I could take advantage of the expertise he has," Chalmers said Friday. "He was able to help me understand things that I would need to do."
"Chief is asked for study" - Samiha Khanna, The News & Observer (April 9, 2004)
Amid concerns about overspending, a City Council member asked Thursday that Durham's police chief hand over work by a consultant he hired last year.

Police Chief Steve Chalmers hired Asa Spaulding Jr. in May for an eight-week study of the police department's employee evaluations and public relations at a rate of $60 an hour. But Spaulding's temporary employment with the city was extended to six months, costing taxpayers $45,000.

Council member Eugene Brown wrote Chalmers a letter Thursday requesting that Spaulding's work be presented to the City Council.

Chalmers said Thursday he would submit the work to City Manager Marcia Conner, but he has declined to release information about Spaulding's work to reporters. Such a response is inappropriate for the city's police chief, Brown said in his letter.

"I find it sadly ironic that Mr. Spaulding views his task as 'image enhancement' when, in the long run, his hiring has actually done more to hinder your department's image than advance it," Brown wrote in his letter to Chalmers.

The city has been bogged down with financial challenges, Brown wrote.

"To pay Asa Spaulding Jr. $45,000 for a work product that no one has seen sends a wrong message to our beleaguered taxpayers," he wrote.

Later this month, Durham police will propose a $5.5 million budget increase for next year, but taxpayers may not be "in a mood" to support tax hikes in light of the city's recent financial problems, Brown's letter said.

He also questioned whether Spaulding's four extra months of employment violated city policy. But such extensions are permitted by city policy, said Alethea Bell, director of human resources. No extensions were documented, but they rarely are, she said.

Conner said Thursday night that she had not seen Spaulding's work, but she thought Chalmers and Spaulding verbally agreed to extend his term.

"I don't think they thought it was a violation of policy," Conner said.

Chalmers would not comment further Thursday.

Spaulding, who is the former chairman of the Durham County Republican Party and once ran for mayor, was removed from the city's payroll Jan. 1, Bell said. In the past he also had served on a citizens committee set up by former Durham Police Chief Teresa Chambers.
"Report on police released" - Margie Fishman, The News & Observer (April 13, 2004)

Under pressure from a City Council member, Police Chief Steve Chalmers released a "final" report Monday that was compiled by his temporary adviser, Asa Spaulding Jr., nearly three months ago at a cost of $45,000.M
But the eight-page document, focusing on organizational development and government and public relations, includes few recommendations that the department can act on immediately. In several places, Spaulding refers to additional reports that are needed. His employment with the city ended Dec. 31. He turned in the "progress report" Jan. 19, although Chalmers said it represented his final work product.
Spaulding has fulfilled all of his obligations, said Chalmers, who called the work "extremely worthwhile.
A former chairman of the Durham County Republican Party, a one-time Durham mayoral candidate and a longtime friend of Chalmers', Spaulding was initially hired in May for an eight-week position that didn't require advertisement. Under city policy, temporary employees can be hired for up to three months. But Chalmers extended Spaulding's employment to six months after, he said, he got permission from the city's human resources director. Chalmers maintained that his personal relationship with Spaulding was not related to his hiring.
If Chalmers had sought competitive bids on the work, Spaulding wouldn't have been able to participate because he doesn't hold a valid city business license.
Last week, council member Eugene Brown criticized Chalmers in a letter for refusing to release a public document that cost roughly the same as one police officer. Chalmers submitted a copy to City Manager Marcia Conner late Monday, but Conner was not available to comment. Chalmers also provided a series of memos written by Spaulding from June to December.
Chalmers said he didn't make a copy of the report available sooner because he was still tweaking it. But when asked what changes were made, he couldn't point to any that had been documented.
Much of Spaulding's work focused on assessing the performance of senior staffers by conducting interviews, visiting other police departments and using a system developed by his consulting firm to determine whether employees needed to be reassigned. Apart from submitting a draft reorganization plan, which recommends eliminating the position of deputy chief, Spaulding said much of his work was personnel-privacy protected. Specific recommendations are to be addressed in a later report, according to his final report.
Among Spaulding's other recommendations: ensuring that the city lobbyist is an advocate for police issues and designating a department employee to handle government grants. "I have already done considerable work in this area for the department," he notes in his report. He also proposes starting a monthly television show for the department to enhance its image, distributing an annual progress report to the public and reactivating a citizens' advisory committee to which he was appointed by former Police Chief Teresa Chambers.
"It appears that in terms of providing timely and good public information, we are accomplishing this quite well," Spaulding wrote. He later said he did not speak to media outlets in making that determination but reviewed news releases and observed the Police Department spokesman during interviews.
Since submitting his report, which Chalmers initially described as "a draft," Spaulding said he has continued to volunteer no more than 15 hours a week to begin implementing his recommendations. He has asked Chalmers to rehire him as a temporary employee at nearly half his $60 hourly rate.
"Spending like a chief" - The News & Observer (April 16, 2004)
Durham's police chief, Steve Chalmers, let a consultant who was paid by the hour charge the city $45,000 for work that took months longer to complete than was originally contracted for. It hardly came as a surprise, given Chalmers' apparent reluctance to release a report by the consultant, that its contents were underwhelming.

Chalmers released the study under pressure by first-term City Council member Eugene Brown. The chief had hired his self-described longtime friend, Asa Spaulding Jr., to do a two-month study of the police department's employee evaluations and its public relations processes. Without anybody else's approval -- an approval that was not required under the city's bizarre contracting policies -- Chalmers extended the study for four additional months. Spaulding, member of a prominent Durham family as well as a Republican Party activist and former candidate for mayor, received $60 an hour.

The report that was released -- eight pages, calling for further studies -- doesn't shed any especially bright light on how the police department is run. The employee evaluation section was withheld for personnel privacy reasons, so Spaulding has to be given some benefit of the doubt as to the value of his research.

Still, that leaves the issue of a department head being allowed to extend such a consulting contract unilaterally. Certainly Chalmers should have had to obtain the approval of City Manager Marcia Conner to spend that much additional public money. That the contract was awarded to a friend just makes matters look worse.

Brown was on the ball in requesting that Chalmers release the report. It took too long for the chief to comply. He would do a favor for his department, buffeted by scandal in recent years, if he adopted a strict policy of openness.

Conner needs to close the policy loophole that gives department heads such as Chalmers an excessive amount of financial freedom. If she doesn't, it falls to the entire City Council to demand that a tighter grip be kept on the public till.
"We are gathered here" - Karen Guzman, The News & Observer (August 1, 2005)
The father of the bride, Mayor Bill Bell, strolls through the parking lot -- black tuxedo jacket thrown over one arm -- to the sprawling red brick complex where his daughter, Kristen, will marry Marcus Hughes tonight. ... Bill Bell is, after all, the mayor. And the groom's mother, Valarie Spaulding Little, is a member of the prominent Spaulding clan, founders of N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Co. ... Durham Police Chief Steven Chalmers, a boxy white gift tucked under one arm and a black straw hat perched jauntily atop his head, signs the guest book. ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a waste of time, you and this website. Why not investigate wrongs committed against people who really need help?