OCEAN CITY – Approval of the general order outlining secondary employment for the Police Department was reviewed and sent back to the Police Commission for a second time, after the Mayor and Council voiced concerns this week regarding language in the general order.
Secondary employment restrictions have been in affect for several years now, prohibiting police officers from taking a second job in any establishment that may pose a conflict of interest, such as a business that predominantly sells alcohol. Working in an establishment such as Home Depot as a cashier would not qualify as a conflict of interest, for example.
Changes to the general order were presented earlier this year, providing stricter guidelines for police-related secondary employment, such as security work for a business in town. With the new changes, police officers would be allowed to work security for establishments, but under the direction of the city. For example, if a police officer were hired to work security as secondary employment at a local under-21 nightclub, he or she would still be required to be in OCPD uniform and under the control of the city. Payment would still come from the under-21 nightclub, but would be at a set fee, paid to the city and then paid to the officer.
Officers also are not allowed to work secondary employment as security guards or bouncers within establishments where alcohol is a main source of revenue.
The changes were approved earlier this year by the Police Commission and sent to the Mayor and Council for final approval, however the okay was hindered when local businessmen raised concerns over the selection of employees for their establishment.
As a form of compromise, new language was inserted in the general order, stating, “Assignment lists for police-related secondary employment shall be submitted to the secondary employer for review. The secondary employer reserves the right to disqualify an employee. In the event an employee is disqualified, the next available employee on the eligibility list will be selected for the assignment.”
Simply stated, an employer would reserve the right to say no to an officer on the list. The officer would not be informed that he or she were disqualified from the list for that particular employer.
“This was a way of having a sense of fairness,” said Lt. Greg Guiton. “Secondary employment, in order to be fair, has to be offered to everyone.”
“We didn’t want any unfairness between the employers and the employees,” said Council member Lloyd Martin.
Council member Jay Hancock questioned why a list of officers could not be presented to the employer, who then reserves the right to choose from the list.
“I don’t understand why the guy who runs business ‘X’ can’t make arrangements through the department to have person A, B or C show up at his business at a given time,” said Hancock.
In response, Guiton said, “The majority of the secondary employers, I don’t think are going to care who is working for them as long as they have the option. I believe there are only one or two employers who are concerned about who the employee might be.”
Council member Mary Knight questioned the language, particularly the use of the word “disqualify.”
“It has a negative connotation for the employee,” she said.
“Why does it have to be disqualify, the word disqualify doesn’t have a positive connotation,” agreed Mayor Rick Meehan.
Meehan also agreed with Hancock’s suggestion of providing employers with a list of potential secondary employees to select.