Although he retired June 30, the issue of St. Michaels Police Department K-9 Max is on the agenda for tonight’s town meeting after residents collected donations to fund his continued service and questions were raised about why the dog was retired.
Max retired June 30 — the end of the town’s fiscal year — and was going spend his retirement with his handler, Cpl. Jason Adams, and his family.
In a July 1 Facebook post, the police department said Max had conducted more than 240 narcotics scans, leading to more than 120 arrests, since joining the force in March 2015. Many of those scans and arrests occurred while assisting other law enforcement agencies in Talbot County.
During public comments before a July 7 closed session, Paulette Florio said funds had been donated to pay for Max to return to service as a police dog.
“I just have some good news that I wanted to present to the commission,” Florio said. “And it has to do with the retired canine officer. Apparently it was a budget cut from what I understood from my investigation of the matter.
“And the town came together and we have a group of citizens who want the dog back and have the money to bring him back in full,” she said. “So we just don’t know where to send the money.
“So congratulations, you still have a canine officer to do his job. And he’s apparently good for another three years in canine officer world,” Florio said.
According to the National Police Dog Foundation, police dogs normally retire “around 10 years of age,” depending on health.
“So where can we send the money? And how do we get him back?” Florio asked July 7.
Commission President Michael Bibb said the commissioners would have to discuss the proposal, but said “(t)he dog was not retired due to budget cuts.”
Bibb’s comment prompted St. Michaels Police Chief Anthony Smith to respond, with Smith saying Florio likely got some of her information from him “because I was led to believe that to some degree.”
The chief said Bibb, in fact, had been the one to tell him that Max would be retired and that one reason for the dog’s retirement “was because it was part of an agreement with the salary increase that we were going to get as police officers.
“So once I learned that information, to me, it became a budget issue,” he said. “And that’s what you informed me in my office about two weeks ago.
“So to me, if if it’s getting around that it’s a budget issue, that’s the impression that I got when you when you informed me that one of the reasons why we got a pay raise or (were) going to get a pay raise, (was) because Max is going to be retired,” Smith said.
The chief said he was opposed to retiring the K-9, but it was ultimately the decision of the town commissioners.
“We had a discussion in several of the meetings and I voiced my opinion that I wanted to keep the canine,” he said. “I think at one meeting, Commissioner DuPont … asked me what my thoughts was on Officer Max and I said he’s a good deterrent. And absolutely he is a deterrent.”
“Now, if the commissioners as a body want to get rid of the canine, that’s fine,” Smith said. “But certainly there should be a process where it should have went through the chief … because I was dead set against it from the very beginning.”
Commissioner David Breimhurst thanked the chief for his comments and the private citizens for offering the funds and asked that the issue be added to the agenda for the July 14 meeting.
Smith said a decision would need to be made soon because Max is required to have a certain amount of training each year.
“I know that’s an issue. I know it’s expensive. And I know that’s an issue with part of wanting to retire him but he’s got to get back and train, he said. “He can’t miss too much training. So thank you very much if you’re going to give us some consideration, but we do not want to go too much past July 14.”
Resident asks four commissioners to resign
Town resident John Garland, speaking before the July 7 closed session, asked for the immediate resignations of Commissioners Bibb, Breimhurst, DuPont, and Harrod.
“Last year, commissioners Bibb, DuPont, Breimhurst, and Harrod, who were collectively supported by St. Michaels Action Committee, known as SMAC, campaigned against two commissioners running for reelection by making unfounded claims,” Garland said. “They defeated those two commissioners by peddling lies and fear.
“Now it seems these same four commissioners did not follow Maryland’s open meeting laws in order to fire long term town manager,” he said. “Regardless of the closed meeting topic, the simple fact that four of our five commissioners sought to disregard open meetings laws is by far their worst behavior to date, in my opinion, and stands in direct irony to their campaign promises.
Garland did not specify how the commissioners may have violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act in connection with the June 24 closed session in which they voted 4-1 to dismiss longtime Town Manager Jean Weisman.
“Accountability is a two-way street,” Garland said July 7. “These four commissioners have broken their trust obligation with residents. And this doesn’t even include their other behaviors such as micromanaging town staff, effectively grinding down operations to a crawl and engaging in day-to-day town management activities which is not a function of their role as commissioners.
“As a town resident, I formally request the immediate resignations of Commissioners Bibb, DuPont, Breimhurst, and Harrod for legal negligence, dereliction of duty, and loss of public trust. I also request the proper process be followed to fill their seats.”
Following the public comments, the town commissioners voted 4-1 to go into closed session July 7 to discuss personnel matters. Commission Vice President Jaime Windon voted against the closed session, saying, “I’m not comfortable without a town attorney here today and I requested that.”
The commissioners held a second closed session last week on Friday, July 9, and noted there would be no public comment before that closed session.
Bibb, Breimhurst, and DuPont voted July 9 in favor of a closed session for personnel matters. According to an audio recording of that vote, Windon apparently was attending remotely and her vote on closing the meeting could not be heard by her fellow commissioners and town staff. Harrod apparently was absent.
The town commissioners meet at 6 p.m. tonight for a regular monthly work session. The public may attend using Zoom.
To join the meeting by computer or smart phone, click this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3264261778. The meeting ID is 326 426 1778. To join by phone with audio only, call 1-301-715-8592 and enter meeting ID 326 426 1778.