Officers receive wanted pay hike

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

Clovis city commissioners gave a group of police officers the pay raise they were excluded from in June. But with that raise came some harsh words for the roughly 35 officers who signed a petition to form a union.

The commission approved the pay raise by a 7-1 vote, with Commissioner Isidro Garcia dissenting.

Garcia said he is unhappy by the fact that officers decided to sign a petition to form a union when city officials were working at addressing their complaints, which include staffing, money and the promotions of inexperienced officers.

Commissioners Randall Crowder and Kevin Duncan said they are not pleased with the way those officers have handled situation that has, at times, polarized the group from the city officials who approve their pay.

Crowder charged officers with using “propaganda” and lies in literature he had read that night, and said the information almost led him to vote against the pay raise.

Crowder did not explain what type of propaganda he was referring to, during or the meeting.

Detective Kirk Roberts, president of the Clovis Police Officers Association that wants to form a union, said he knows nothing of what Crowder was referring to, but he has never lied in any material he’s put out seeking support of the union.

“I will not put out a lie,” Roberts said. “To accuse me or any other one in our organization of intentionally putting out a lie is the worst thing you can do for a cop. I’ll confront anyone who says I’m lying.”

He said he was pleased with the raise, but said pay was not the main priority for officers.

“It’s a decision that they needed to make,” Roberts said. “I think they’ve had a whole lot of frustration and stress with this issue. It’s not an easy issue. If there’s personal hurt feelings I’m sorry for that, but this isn’t about anybody’s personal feelings up there.”

Roberts said the main concern and reasoning for seeking union status is for the safety of the community and the well-being of the department.

“There needs to be some sacrifice of other things in this city to take care of this problem. For two years plus, close to three years, we’ve been saying ‘folks wake up, bad things are going to happen.’ We’re going to go from a state of crisis to a state of emergency,” Roberts said. “Yes we put pressure (on city officials), and we did that appropriately, that’s also part of our responsibility.”

Duncan said he disagrees that Clovis is immersed in a crisis of crime.

“I don’t feel we’re in a crisis where (we are) in fear for our lives,” he said. “I do not agree with the way the police department has handled this issue.”

Commissioner Cathy Haynes supported the raise and the right of officers to form a union.

“I can’t go another day without moving forward with this (raise),” she said.

Also at the meeting:

• The commission approved the $36,800 purchase of a 60-foot tract of land that will allow a second access to the civic center property.
• The commission approved a budget increase from $5 million to $6 million to fund refinement of the civic center.
• The commission approved the rehiring of city manager Ray Mondragon as a city employee rather than an independent contractor.
He will be paid $95,000 annually. He was making $104,507, but as an independent contractor had to pay gross receipts taxes and was not allowed city benefits. When he was hired in August of 2001, city officials paid him a higher amount for that reason.
City commissioners praised Mondragon in his efforts as city manager.
• The commission tabled a motion granting approval of a replat of a portion of the Colonial Estates Addition. Crowder said he would like to know more information involving the proposal.