City year in review: Police granted raise after much debate

Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey fought for raises for his officers, as seen here at a Public Safety Committee meeting in October. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

Clovis City Commissioner Isidro Garcia didn’t like the idea of funding a giant pay increase for Clovis police. The $714,000 was unbudgeted money, he said, and there was no plan to increase salaries for other city employees.

So, against the backdrop of one of the most crowded City Commission meetings in recent memory, Garcia voted against a salary increase police said would help bring the department out of emergency mode.

Garcia’s decision was in the minority.

Now the veteran city commissioner and the Revenue Review Committee he chairs is looking for roughly $1 million by July to fund pay increases for the rest of the city employees.

The City Commission’s swift and hefty pay raise for police in November, and the backlash from city employees that immediately followed, was selected as the top city story in 2004 by CNJ staff.

After hours of spirited pleas by police, community members and local leaders, the Commission approved the pay increase — almost $300,000 more than pay increase option two — by a 6-2 vote.

And while police and their families left the meeting with high praise for the raise, roughly 100 city employees decided to boycott their exclusion from the raise by calling in sick the following day.

The landfill was closed and sanitation pick-up was limited, prompting an array of calls to City Hall, former City Manager Ray Mondragon said.

Of the city employees to take a sick day, 72 worked for the public works department and 26 with the parks and recreation department.

Most city employees were happy the police received a pay increase; their anger stemmed from the City Commission’s decision to exclude the other city employees.

“We’ve got enough in the general fund to cover the police increase, just barely,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he believes a series of budget adjustments and transfers will help the Revenue Review Committee to come up with a majority of the $1 million needed to fund increases for other employees. He believes they should get a substantial raise by July, but added as a last resort an increase in property taxes to fund their raises.

“As a last resort, we can increase property taxes and garbage and sewer fees, but I don’t want to have to do that,” he said.

Other big city stories in 2004:

• Mondragon resigned in November to take a position as manager for area economic development at ENMR Plateau, a communications company serving 13 counties in eastern New Mexico and West Texas. Mondragon moves to the private sector following 30 years with the city.
Joe Thomas, Mondragon’s assistant city manager, was promoted to city manager weeks later.

• The proposed Ute Water project made the plenty of news in 2004, but officials with the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority still have much work to complete to receive federal funding. This summer, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici told members of the ENMRWA that he will not support federal funding of the Ute Water Project for at least two years.

• Mayor David Lansford was re-elected in March, defeating Raymond Atchley and Steve Muscato in a landslide. In one of the tighter City Commission races, Fred Van Soelen (285 votes) defeated Len Vohs (248 votes) and incumbent City Commissioner Gloria Wicker (245 votes).

• In January, the City Commission approved raising pay for the mayor and commissioners a total of $18,000 a year, which rubbed some residents the wrong way.

• In November, 36 of 38 Clovis police officers voted to form the Clovis Police Officers Association, a bargaining unit of sergeants, patrolmen, detectives and the evidence technician.