The city of Berkley rehired Public Safety Director Richard Eshman as a contract employee this week after his retirement in September.
The move was prompted by the chief's 65th birthday last month, which required his retirement under state law, and will save the city approximately $28,700, according to Finance Director David Sabuda.
Under the contract, Eshman will continue to manage the department for up to 2 years, until Oct. 21, 2014, and will take a $20,981 reduction in salary, with annual compensation not to exceed $64,629. He will be ineligible for overtime and other fringe benefits, but will receive 120 hours of paid vacation, 80 hours of sick leave and 7 paid holidays.
He will continue to draw his retirement pay and benefits, but will not accrue further benefits under the contract.
"(The contract) allows us to keep somebody who's done an exemplary job, a tremendous asset to the community, a tremendous asset to all of our officers, somebody who has so much institutional wisdom that you can't just replicate things like that," Councilman Dan Terbrack said Monday night at City Hall.
"I think that, to me personally, it is more important than even cost savings when it comes to public safety," he said. "Myself and, I'm sure, council members up here and the residents, are most concerned with what's best for the community and what's going to keep everybody safe.
"Sometimes, it may cost us more and it's worth it in that case," Terbrack said. "Now, in this case, we're kind of getting the best of both worlds – (the contract's) saving us a little money, but (we're) also getting a top-notch director."
Eshman has been with the Berkley Public Safety Department for the past 10 years and previously served the city of Detroit for 33 years. The contract stipulates that he "must continue to hold, State of Michigan certifications of Firefighter and Police officer."
Deputy Director Robert North, whose contract was renewed in July, led the department while contract negotiations were under way during Eshman's absence.
Eshman's contract was approved unanimously, but Councilwoman Lisa Platt Auensen expressed concerns about the short time frame City Council members had to study the document, a draft of which was presented to City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa on Oct. 10.
"I'm guessing he was probably going to turn 65 around this time for a while," Platt Auensen said. "So, what can we better do in the future to prepare these discussions and have time before he actually is out of office for two weeks?"
She also said having the Public Safety Department's two top leaders in contract positions makes her nervous in terms of succession planning.
City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa said that if North hadn't been able to serve as a backup for Eshman, the situation would have been handled differently. She added that she would work on Platt Auensen's concerns about long-term staffing "because 2 years will go by so fast."
"It's not just about saving money, it's also about hiring the right individual," she said.