OCEAN CITY – After a public debate, the City Council moved forward this week to authorize Mayor Jim Ireton to sign an agreement with Wal-Mart, allowing Salisbury police officers to provide security on Black Friday.
Last week, Wal-Mart sent a request to the Salisbury Police Department (SPD) asking to contract off-duty officers for security at its Salisbury location during Black Friday. The council became hesitant due to concerns over liability and whether the local management at Wal-Mart had sufficient authority to authorize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the city. With Black Friday quickly approaching, Wal-Mart withdrew its request and looked to the Wicomico County Sherriff’s Department for additional security.
“It was apparent at the work session table that council would like to assist Wal-Mart and make it possible for our police officers to obtain this extra income,” Council President Terry Cohen said this week. “Where this agreement becomes somewhat complicated is that back in the old days officers did this while off duty but now companies are requesting that they be in the official uniform of the city, so that creates a different set of liabilities for the city and we want to be sure that we not only protect the city but our officers and citizens.”
City Administrator John Pick explained staff was not aware Wal-Mart’s request would be returning until late Monday afternoon. Last week the council questioned Asset Protection Manager of the North Salisbury Wal-Mart Muir Boda’s authority to sign the law enforcement services agreement with the city. Since then, the asset protection manager who has jurisdiction over all of the Wal-Marts on the Delmarva Peninsula has given consent to sign the agreement himself.
Boda said that there are 19 Wal-Mart stores in the region and every one of them works with a local police department. He added that for the last two years he has been working in his current position, as well as signed the agreements with the City of Salisbury. It is in his job description to work with local police agencies.
“This is the first year we have provided uniform officers or have entertained providing uniformed officers and that is why the MOU is required,” Campbell said. “Heaven forbid something happens to our police officers while they are there … It is important to know that the person who is authorized by the corporation to sign contracts is the person who is signing them.”
In the information provided to the council on Monday, City Attorney Paul Wilbur inserted an e-mail stating he is confident in moving forward with the law enforcement services agreement as long as the resolution is contingent upon a written verification that the signer is authorized on behalf of the Wal-Mart corporation.
“It does provide the city with a second chance to make this work because it does benefit our police officers in that they have an opportunity to earn an extra income, and they have the opportunity to make a local shopping venue safer and that benefits everyone in the community whether they live here or they are coming in to shop,” Council Vice President Deborah Campbell said.
Councilman Tim Spies was disappointed that the resolution was not moved forward last week.
“Now it seems that the ducks are in a row … and I am ready to fly with this, I think this should have happened but we couldn’t because there was wasn’t paper work to support it,” he said.
The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution that states, “the Mayor of the City of Salisbury is authorized to sign a law enforcement services agreement between Wal-Mart and the City of Salisbury, contingent upon written verification to the city of legal signing authority on part of Owner.”
‘Where there is a will, there is a way,” Cohen said.