As Chief Executive Officer of the City of New Buffalo and designated to rein above the police department per the City Charter, City Manager Dave Richards has total access to all city documentation including surveillance videos. So it is puzzling why he completed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for over 60 hours of city hall surveillance videos unless he wanted them for private use. The dates of the videos are from September 11 through September 19 just after Richards terminated former Police Chief Larry Pitchford but prior to the city council’s approval at their September 19 meeting. While all other FOIA requests are fulfilled by city employees, Richards ordered an IT expert to complete the task with total cost for the service unknown. (see copy of the FOIA request below)
When a male manager, for his private benefit, accesses 63 hours of a female subordinate at work, who also happened to be the assistant to the former police chief he just terminated, it is not just puzzling but mostly worrisome but Diana Selir’s work area was targeted through Richards’ FOIA request. Remember that Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh first used a frivolous ethics complaint against Pitchford, then he targeted both Pitchford and Selir in a baseless federal wiretapping lawsuit to harass them yet Ashbaugh was never reprimanded for either of these two actions. Now it appears that Selir might be the object of personal harassment by Richards privately viewing 63 hours of her in the work environment. .
Additionally, the videos from August 2016 of Tony Ashbaugh and Pitchford’s subsequence investigation are central to two current Michigan Civil Rights complaints, one claiming gender bias while the other race. In both cases, it appears that the decision of the city council’s cover-up of the videos led to the complaints being filed and we can only speculate on Pitchford’s swift removal from his position as police chief that eliminated any further review of the facts involving these complaints.
Besides targeting Selir’s work area for private viewing, Richards also requested the video recording of the front hallway for a half hour prior to the September 19 council meeting and the side parking lot for an hour after the meeting. Since Richards was aware that police department employees planned to attend the meeting in support of Pitchford, his request could be another avenue of employee harassment. The loyalty of employees to their direct supervisor could seem as disloyalty to an insecure manager.
With the cooperation of the mayor and city council members, Richards got rid of Pitchford, clearing the way for him and Ashbaugh to have easy access to the police department with Richards in the position to hire a new chief leaving the employees with no buffer between them and Richards. Then at the October council meeting, the council members again cleared the way for Richards, giving him direct supervision of the surveillance videos. He no longer needs a FOIA request to spy on city employees.