EMU says rehiring O'Dell as police chief was allowed exemption from university guidelines
Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin sought an exemption from staff search guidelines when rehiring former police chief Greg O'Dell last week, a move that university officials said is both allowed in its protocol and justified due to unique circumstances.
Four months after leaving his post at EMU, O'Dell announced on Nov. 30 that he had resigned as police chief of the University of Michigan and reassumed his position as chief at EMU.
However, O'Dell never submitted a formal application to the university and Martin hired him without consulting a search committee, a process mandated by EMU human resources guidelines.
"Guidelines have been developed to achieve a level of consistency within the search process," EMU's policy states. "A formal search committee process with external outreach/advertising is required for... all staff managerial positions at the assistant director level or above."
The search committee guidelines do assert that "under unique circumstances, exceptions, with appropriate rationale, may be granted" with approval from the head of human resources.
Martin said the rehiring of O'Dell so shortly after he left constitutes a unique circumstance.
"He underestimated how much he deeply loved and missed Eastern, and when I heard that from him I thought about offering him the chance to come back," Martin said.
Martin said O'Dell's exemption from the search process was justified because of his recent tenure at the university.
"He hadn't been gone very long and he had an extremely successful record while he was here," she said, adding that the search process is "absolutely important" and noting that O'Dell was originally hired at the recommendation of a search committee four years ago.
Martin checked with Board of Regents Chairman Roy Wilbanks and human resources staff before making the hire, she said. It still must be finalized by regents at their Dec. 15 meeting.
O'Dell said he had been communicating with Martin for about two weeks prior to being offered the EMU police chief position and accepted it just before Nov. 30, the day his resignation at U-M was announced.
"It was shortly before I came back here, actually, that I had conversations with President Martin," O'Dell said.
O'Dell submitted his resignation to U-M officials on Nov. 29, he said.
EMU posted the police chief position online on Oct. 23, 84 days after O'Dell publicly announced his resignation from EMU.
That posting remained online until Nov. 30, according to EMU Director of Communications Walter Kraft.
Kraft said EMU received 87 applications for O'Dell's former position and created a police chief search committee comprised of faculty, administrators and students to review the applications.
But due to O'Dell's expedient hiring, none of the 87 applications were reviewed and the search committee never met, Kraft said.
EMU Faculty Senate President Matt Evett said he has received no complaints about the rehiring of O'Dell or concerning the rehiring process.
"In this case I think it is fine," he said. "He’s well regarded by the faculty and I think given how short a time it was between when he left and when he came back... (there are) no concerns."
Evett said "the faculty feel he was sufficiently vetted" during his original application process in 2007 and 2008.
O'Dell left EMU in August to become police chief at U-M, a position he formerly held at Eastern since February 2008.
With his return to EMU, he will make $50,000 less than he was making at U-M and $20,000 less than he was making at EMU when he left.
O'Dell said since his hiring at U-M he had seen Martin at several events and kept a rapport with her. He would not say whether he approached Martin about his old job, or whether Martin began the conversation.
"I really don’t want to get into personal conversations as far as details. We both wanted this to happen and it developed from there," O'Dell said. "We had a conversation, she made an offer and I submitted a resignation."