A cash-strapped California city has decided to fire nearly its entire workforce, including the police department, which has a reputation for corruption and abuse of citizens.
Officials in Maywood, a city of about 30,000 residents in Los Angeles County, voted in June to contract out all city services. The only city employees will be the city attorney and city manager.
The move will eliminate the jobs of about 100 city workers who handle services including street maintenance, parks and recreation, finance, records management, and policing.
A standing-room-only crowd of city residents and employees attended the council meeting to protest the decision, but Councilman Felipe Aguirre spoke for the council members when he told the crowd, “We’re limited on our choices and limited on what we can do.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department took over policing duties in Maywood on July 1. Other services were taken over by the neighboring city of Bell.
Three weeks later news reports revealed Bell’s city manager, assistant city manager and police chief were receiving $1.6 million in annual salary between the three of them. They resigned after City Hall was besieged by protestors who also demanded the City Council resign or face a recall election. Bell’s part-time council members are paid $100,000 a year.
Maywood officials say contracting out all city services will reduce the city’s annual expenses by more than $164,000 and help plug a deficit of about $450,000 in a $10 million budget.
In addition to having an unbalanced budget, Maywood also has been unable to obtain workers compensation and liability insurance because of numerous injury claims and lawsuits filed against the police department over the years.
In a statement to residents before the vote, city officials wrote, “As its priority, the City needs to retain adequate liability and workers compensation insurance because of the action of the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority to terminate Maywood’s coverage. To accommodate this need, a number of options are under review. The City has applied for workers compensation through the State Insurance Fund to determine if it is a viable option. The City has been able to obtain a quote for a commercial liability insurance policy, but must still work on the details of being able to implement and cover the deductible under the policy.”
The statement noted the police department had reduced such claims from more than $12 million in 2006 to “$266,000 this fiscal year,” but the reduction apparently was not enough to stave off the department’s elimination.
In 2007 the Los Angeles Times described the Maywood Police Department as a “haven for misfit cops” and reported at least a third of the city’s 37 officers had criminal records. Many officers had been fired from other police departments and later hired by Maywood.
Maywood’s population is about 96 percent Hispanic, many of whom are in the United States illegally, the Times story said.
Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Budget & Tax News.