Fraser tries to deal with fall out over controversial online degrees

FRASER, Mich. (WXYZ) – Fraser city officials are at odds over what to do about police officers who got a pay raise based on a college degree they bought online.

Some are demanding the money be repaid. Others want an outside investigation to determine if former city officials either knew or encouraged officers to present the degrees for credit.

In a recent city council meeting, a high ranking police officer told the council that they better get ready for a fight.

Fraser Police Lt. Dan Kolke, a 22-year veteran of the police department, told the council and a packed chamber last Thursday, he did an internal investigation concerning the degrees.

Kolke said, “The two items we found…I can’t go into detail with this … is, it’s either a contract issue, or a public act issue.”

Kolke also made reference to a Michigan law called the Authentic Credentials in Education Act that was passed in 2005. It says, in part, that “an individual shall not knowingly use a false academic credential to obtain employment; to obtain a promotion, or higher compensation in employment.”

Some city council members want the officers to pay back at least seven years worth of educational bonus dollars. The degrees allowed the officers to get a pay raise between $1,000 and $3,000 a year .

Councilman Paul Cilluffo told the audience, “The most important thing, and I’ve said right from the beginning – we have to recoup those dollars and somebodies got to be accountable for it.”

But Cilluffo did not say how they would recoup the pay, adding, “How we get them, I don’t know yet.”

An Associate’s Degree is required to become a Fraser policeman. If an officer gets an additional college degree, they get paid more. That’s why some officers purchased a degree online for about $400 – without having to take a class or do any work.

The certificate says they have a Bachelor of Science with a major in Criminal Justice. It comes from Almeda University, an on-line operation on the Caribbean Island of Nevus. The U.S. Department of Education says the university is not accredited.

Fraser Mayor Doug Hagerty wants an outside agency to investigate.

“I do not believe that 12 officers all stepped off and made an erroneous decision to go get a degree from Almeda,” said Hagerty.

He then pointed to past city administrations.

“There had to be something that was happening in the management structure, something that allowed them to feel comfortable enough to jump off on this,” added Hagerty.

Councilwoman Kathy Blanke said, “We just want to come to a fact finding, a fair way. It’s our tax dollars.”

But Lieutenant Kolke fired back. He said it looks like a civil matter, based on his internal investigation.

Kolke then warned, “Believe it or not, our guys are dealing with this and it can be handled. But, they’re talking suing the city if things go wrong.”

Kolke didn’t elaborate on what could go wrong. But tomorrow night at 7, Fraser City Council is set to meet again to discuss their options.



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