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Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

EMU says rehiring O'Dell as police chief was allowed exemption from university guidelines

By Kellie Woodhouse

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.


Greg O'Dell

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."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 3:46 a.m.

@Cash & Trespass: I bet that UM will not hire the new DPS head from outside any time soon. It will be much better for our community in Ann Arbor that we don't have a UM-DPS here.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

Transparency? NO!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

I agree with the points made that the new hire at UM needs to have a full understanding of why O'Dell left after 4 months. All of us at one point in our careers have walked into jobs where the prior employee in the position left after a short period. Usually the party line is given: "He or she missed the old job; wasn't a good fit; decided to move on sooner than we hoped; etc etc." Unfortunately, none of those explanations are usually the truth. And none of those explanations will help the new hire; any finalist for O'Dell's position at UM needs to have the opportunity to talk to O'Dell and find out why he left after 4 months. Knowing what the circumstances were can make all the difference to the success or failure of the next hire. Even if it's not a positive situation to walk into, at least give the person offered the job a chance to learn all the facts before making a decision whether or not to take the job.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Excellent comment. If anyone takes the UM job without talking to O'Dell, they would be foolish. However, O'Dell may not be any more forthcoming with the potential UM hire than he has been with the media.

Lifelong A2

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

The comments from Cash and trespass demonstrate a lack of understanding of human resource law and organizational structures. @Cash- The President of the university has -- and should have -- authority to hire whomever she sees fit. A search process exists to aide in that process and to permit input from relevant stakeholders, but the final decision rests exclusively with the president. That's why the search guidelines include the exception that was utilized here. The only precedent set here was that the president runs the university. That's neither controversial nor newsworthy. @trespass- Equal employment opportunity law does not mandate any employer -- including public employers -- to give any applicant a "fair chance" at a job. Such laws merely require that employment decisions be made without consideration of race, sex, religion, etc. Furthermore, as noted in other comments, O'Dell was an at-will employee at UM. He can quit when he wants, and UM has no legal or moral expectation that he'll stay for any time period.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

@Lifelong A2- You simply do not understand employment contracts at the UM. For example, each faculty member who is on the "clinical track" (mostly in the medical school) has a set term for that contract, such as 3 years. They can only be fired during the term of the contract if they can show "cause" that the faculty member breach their duty under the contract. It is true that most of these contracts allow the faculty member to resign without penaly from the University but in the case of Chief O'dell, the original article said that he was paid a $30,000 signing bonus. What did he sign? A contract obviously. Should he keep a signing bonus if he resigns in only 3 months?


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

If anything you said was true there would be no need for HR policy. EMU has a written and TIGHTLY CLOSELY followed policy in place for decades. NO one has been allowed to bypass that policy. Once a position is posted for a set number of days, that pool is CLOSED and no one can be added. Simply there is a valid reason. Suppose that all of the applicants were female and the pres wanted a male. They cannot add a person AFTER the pool is created. The policy prevents favoritism and it prevents discrimination. No this opens a can of worms EMU does NOT want to open. It's going to be trouble. This has NOTHING to do with the person involved. It has to do with a policy put in place to avoid favoritism in public policy and in discrimination.

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

The goal in hiring someone is to fill a job with a good person. All interviews and searches are to find this person. SInce O'Dell has so recently had this position, and EMU was satisfied with his work, it wouild be foolish to not re-hire him again.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

He wasn't interviewed or part of the applicant pool or search. One person made this choice. EMU should respect the employment policy ALL of the time, not just when it suits the administration. This is a public institution, not KMart.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Taking this particular individual out of the picture, this is a dangerous precedent. I have zero interest in faculty vetting. That's not the issue. Human Resource professionals are the experts on this issue, not the faculty. I'm more concerned about the REASON that those hiring policies exist. 87 applicants, including internal candidates who remained loyal to EMU, are tossed aside. They followed the stringent application rules, etc....and one person tossed them all aside to hire someone she chose, a person who did not even fill out an application or meet the app deadline. Again, no offense to the person involved. Policy is very strict on this issue. Once the position is posted, apps are received and chose someone who did not apply or follow HR policy? Throw out the policy when it suits you? Really dangerous precedent set here.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

I absolutely agree M.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

I can certainly see a lawsuit in the next few weeks. This could end up costing EMU a truckload of money.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

I don't disagree with O'dell's rehiring but does the process actually meet the equal opportunity employment law? No other applicants got a fair chance at the job. Also, O'dell recieved a $30,000 bonus for signing a contract with UM. Did he get permission from UM to breach the contract? Did EMU interfere with an employment contract at UM? UM will have to go to considerable expense to perform another search for a police chief, is EMU going to reimburse them for the expense? Was there a settlement agreement between UM and O'dell to let him out of his contract? Also, I don't think anyone is buying the explanation that O'dell just missed his old job so much that he was willing to take a $50,000/yr pay cut and give up a $30,000 signing bonus to return to his old job. I think everyone owes the public and the next applicant for the UM job an explanation of what he found so problematic about the UM job.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

@TheGerman- "at will" employment refers to employment that does not include a contract. It does not make employment contracts unenforcible. If you induce someone to breach an employment contract you can be sued. If you remember the settlement with West Virginia regarding hiring the football coach, Rich Rodriquez, the UM paid a large part of the $4 million settlement.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

I thought since Michigan is an "at-will" state, employment contracts are not enforceable? Also, why would EMU reimburse U of M? I can't think of a case where one employer reimburses another for hiring on of the others' workers.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

Good points. People need to be careful about confusing a person who thy may or may not "like", with this entire strange series of events. I can guarantee a hiring like this has never happened at EMU before. If the school didn't like their pool of applicants in the past, they just pull the posting and post it a few months later...or extend the deadline. They don't toss the pool and hire someone who didn't even apply. Incredible.