By Scott Sullivan
Saugatuck city and township have declined to pay Douglas invoices sent them for out-of-jurisdiction police responses saying they have no legal authority to do so.
Saugatuck city attorney Jeff Sluggett apprised Douglas city manager Bill LeFevere Sept. 17 that Douglas’ $128.22 bill for two July Douglas Police Department responses is not supported by current mutual aid agreements.
Township manager Aaron Sheridan told The Commercial Record Douglas had sent invoices totaling $101.87 to that neighbor jurisdiction.
Douglas for 20 years administered a joint Sauga-tuck-Douglas Police Depart- ment for the two cities until Saugatuck, citing an expected $200,000 in yearly savings, left that agreement June 30 to contract with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office for said services.
Saugatuck Township is served by Sheriff’s road patrol deputies.
Douglas, which has continued its own department with fewer officers since the breakup, informed Sauga-tuck city April 11 its extension of mutual aid to neighbors may now come with costs attached.
Saugatuck city replied April 19 saying “this is not historically how mutual aid has been treated as part of the mutual aid agreement.”
“This is entirely a Douglas-Saugatuck matter and not a mutual aid issue,” LeFevere wrote back May 14. “and there are not negative impacts for the other cities or the Sheriff’s Department who are a party to the Mutual Aid Agreement.
“This policy change is a direct result of your decision to terminate the police services agreement. Douglas residents should not be expected to finance responding to out-of-jurisdiction calls in Saugatuck for free when, for budget reasons, you have no contractual coverage in your city,” LeFevere said.
“We have advised Saugatuck (city),” wrote Sluggett Sept. 17, “that it may not process or pay the submitted invoice as it is without legal authority (or obligation) to do so.
“As you know, Allegan County (from which Saugatuck receives police services), Douglas and Saugatuck are parties to a Mutual Aid Agreement for law enforcement services dated Aug. 7, 2017,” the lawyer continued.
“In part, the Agreement provides that any of the participants may request mutual aid police services through the Allegan County Central Dispatch. Of particular relevance is Paragraph 3 of the Agreement which provides in full:
“All personnel supplied to the other governmental entity in aid or assistance shall remain at all times solely the agent or employee of their employing governmental entity, and not of the requesting governmental entity; and the employing entity shall be and remain solely responsible for the payment of all wages, fringe benefits, disability payments and charges to be made for equipment, supplies and materials used or expended by them while rendering assistance under the Agreement.
“Under the express terms of the Agreement, Douglas, as the employing entity in this instance, remains liable for any costs incurred associated with a response.
“While the parties to the Agreement certainly have the ability to amend it to provide for payments to be made by a requesting party, no such amendment has yet been adopted,” Sluggett said.