City Council asks for more time to decide on reinstating CPD lieutenant position

Colusa Police Chief Josh Fitch asked the city council to reinstate his department’s lieutenant position during their regular meeting on May 15, but the council continued the item until their budget meeting, declining to take any action until they have a clearer picture of the city’s upcoming budget.

Fitch’s proposal was to promote Colusa Police Department’s Senior Sgt. Eldon Tamez – who has been with the department for just under 20 years and a sergeant there for just under 15 years – to the rank of lieutenant. Historically, Fitch explained, the department has had a lieutenant’s position.

“My predecessor is the only one who hasn’t had one in recent memory. Prior to that, we always have.” Fitch said. “I got with (Finance Director) Toni (Benson) to look at this, because obviously the cost associated is going to be a concern. It is a position that is exempt, so it would not pay overtime”

Had the council reinstated the position, it would have paid 5 percent over the salary for the department’s top-step sergeant. Fitch said that because of the fact that the lieutenant position is exempt from overtime, there would have been a net savings for the city in the first year after Tamez’s promotion. The city would have broken about even in the second year, and would have realized a little bit of an increase by the third year for the salary for the lieutenant position, he added.

“Eldon’s been my right-hand guy since I’ve been the chief,” Fitch said. “He does a lot of administrative stuff as it is. I think it’s the logical next step.”

Councilman Dave Womble said that he personally felt that Fitch “had a good man” in Tamez, and Mayor Greg Ponciano agreed, but asked how his role might change with the new title. Fitch replied Tamez’s role wouldn’t change much, other than some additional responsibility when it came to the department’s budget.

“I had to sit and talk to him and say that, in order to do this –which isn’t uncommon – that he was probably going to realize a little bit of a pay cut, at least in the first year, and he was OK with that,” Fitch said. “Like I said, it’s similar in other agencies. He’s a topped-out sergeant with a longevity step. He’s got that, and then you throw overtime on top of that, and it can amount to quite a bit. But he’s at a point in his career and in age that he’s really not interested in working a bunch of overtime, so for him, it’s a natural next step.”

Councilman Dave Markss said that while he wasn’t opposed to the concept, he had “concerns on the financial side of the house” in terms of increased retirement and OPEB (other post-employment benefits) liabilities.

“I know what he’s trying to do – he’s bumping up and is going to be retiring fairly soon, and now we’ve got a higher retirement liability and OPEB liability,” Markss said. “And I’d kind of like to sit on this for a little bit until we have more discussions about next year’s budget, also.”

Ponciano said that while the promotion makes complete sense from a personnel perspective, he agreed that the council needed to have a better grasp on the back-end costs associated with reinstating the position, and a clearer picture of the city’s upcoming year’s budget, before they make a decision.

“I think you’ve got a great guy, and I don’t anybody to get the impression that we – that I think otherwise,”Ponciano said. “But I do kind of agree that we’ve got budget coming up, and that would be a more appropriate time to look at the whole picture, rather than make a decision that comes around and impacts us without realizing it.”

The council will make a decision on whether or not to reinstate the Colusa Police Department’s lieutenant position at their budget meeting on June 5.

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net