Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks will leave his job Sunday and will be sworn in the next morning as chief of the Eaton Rapids police department.
Weeks submitted a letter of resignation on Monday, notifying city council that Dec. 1 would be his final day on the job here as police chief and EMS ambulance service director.
Weeks promoted Morenci officer Ryan Hillard to acting sergeant beginning Sunday and named Chad Corbin as the acting EMS station supervisor until city council determines how to fill the positions.
Morenci’s new mayor Bill Foster stated at a council meeting Monday that he intends to name veteran officer Don Thompson as the interim sergeant. A special council meeting was scheduled Tuesday night to vote on the issue.
In his resignation letter, Weeks urged council members to appoint both of his recommendations to permanent positions.
“Both are men of integrity, and with patience and support by you, I’m confident they will serve Morenci well.”
Weeks said he has been “truly blessed to serve the citizens of Morenci.”
“My experience here has made me a better police officer, but more importantly, a better man,” he said. “For that I am grateful. I pray that the amazing strength of our community will allow you to endure the political and financial challenges ahead and Morenci will grow and prosper from the experience.”
Weeks explained that he had concerns about his job prior to the November election. A letter to the editor written by then-candidate Foster mentioned his goal of “restructuring the police and EMS services”—the two departments led by Weeks.
In addition, Weeks said he was shown a Facebook posting by Foster that mentioned having the votes to eliminate Weeks’ job.
“Having those concerns, I started applying for jobs because I didn’t know if I would have one and I can’t risk that,” he said.
Weeks said he had an interview and job offer prior to the Nov. 11 city council meeting when Foster was to name his recommendations for department heads.
Foster chose to delay announcing appointments and Weeks asked him after the meeting about the future of his job. Foster confirmed that he did not intend to hire Weeks and the chief decided to accept the Eaton Rapids position.
“I want to move on with a clean slate,” he said.
He didn’t want to take the risk of not being hired and leaving with “a blemish on his record.”
“I don’t want to re-appoint him,” Foster said last week in an interview with the Observer, and he justified the decision for budgetary reasons.
The money saved by not hiring Weeks would allow the city to have 24-hour police coverage without an increase in spending, he said.
Weeks said he made two spending plans when council met last spring to approve a budget. One plan called for retaining the three current officers and providing coverage for 20 hours a day.
A second plan would have laid off one full-time officer and attempted to hire enough part-time employees to provide 24-hour service.
“That’s really hard on the community,” Weeks said, noting that citizens generally don’t get to know the part-time officers before they find a full-time job and leave.
Weeks recommended retaining the city’s three officers and city council agreed.
Foster said he’s responding to many residents’ desire for 24-hour coverage.
“Sometimes you have to allow change to move forward,” he said. “We definitely don’t want to move backward.”
Foster initially intended to name his recommendation for a new chief at the Dec. 9 council meeting, but after learning about Weeks’ resignation, he scheduled the special meeting.
“I’m going with experience,” Foster said about his choice of Thompson. “I figure you start at the top and move in.”
Thompson has been with the Morenci department for 25 years. Hillard, a Morenci native, first started working in Morenci in 2008 and became a full-time officer in 2012.
Council will have to approve Foster’s recommendation, and if it’s rejected, a council member could make a motion supporting Hillard.
Weeks said he’s saddened to be leaving “a great community with so many great people,” but he decided against waiting to see if he would still have a job.
“I needed to have options,” he said.
Eaton Rapids turned out to be a good option as Weeks moves on to a community more than twice the size of Morenci that’s located closer to the area where he grew up.
The move came earlier than he wanted, however. After becoming chief here in 2002, Weeks said he had no intention of moving while his children were still attending Morenci schools.
– Nov. 27, 2013