Seaside police union targets city manager, interim bosses.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The Seaside Police Officers Association is holding a vote of no confidence in City Manager Ray Corpuz, Interim Police Chief Steve Willis and his second-in-command, Interim Deputy Executive Officer Don MacQuarrie.
The union adopted the motion at its Oct. 22 meeting and expects the ballot results Tuesday or Wednesday, Nov. 10-11, according to POA President Nick Borges.
The vote comes at a volatile time for the department: SSPD Chief Steve Cercone placed three officers on administrative leave before his own Aug. 10 suspension, and a fifth officer has since been put on leave. City officials have not released details, citing personnel matters under investigation. Meanwhile city managers are looking to reduce public safety spending, possibly through layoffs.
“We’re under a lot of pressure right now,” Borges says. “You take your leader out and people get very stressed.”
Corpuz says he’s surprised the POA didn’t approach him before the vote. “Everybody should have that courtesy,” he says. “[But] in the end, people are entitled to their own opinion.”
Willis declines comment until the results are in.
Meanwhile, city officials are reviewing a police management and staffing study prepared by the Palo Alto-based Matrix consulting group. Among its cost-cutting recommendations: Switch from 10-hour to 12-hour shifts, which would “provide the opportunity to reduce patrol staffing by five budgeted positions.” The study also suggests eliminating a deputy chief, commander, investigator, detention officer and service assistant.
But Corpuz stresses the Matrix report is only a study. “We are reviewing it for implementation,” he says. “It’s a little premature to be able to say what we will and won’t do.”
Layoffs aren’t inevitable, he adds; the City Council prefers to reduce staffing through attrition. But with public safety accounting for 70 percent of the General Fund, Corpuz says, the city owes it to taxpayers to look at cost-cutting options. (The Seaside Firefighters Association is also on the defense against potential layoffs; see “Under Fire,” Oct. 22-28.)
That doesn’t soothe any nerves at the POA. “We’re very offended they spent $50,000 to make public safety thinner,” Borges says, referring to the approximate cost of the Matrix study. “Morale is poor in the department. There’s a huge fear going on, and I don’t want the police department to lose its focus. Our focus is to keep the community safe.”
Borges notes the POA waived the 12 percent raise due to members earlier this year. The department also trimmed its training and overtime costs, put off equipment purchases and froze seven new hires.
But the economy has forced cuts in all city departments, Corpuz notes: “In the end, everybody made sacrifices.”