A full-time Mayflower officer was laid off in October after officials noted the city’s sales tax revenues were declining. The Log Cabin Democrat sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to fact check the cause of the firing.
The Mayflower Police Department, which patrols 24/7, consisted of seven full-time and three part-time officers until the Oct. 23 city council meeting. The department now functions with six full-time officers. Five of those officers patrol the streets while the sixth is dedicated to the schools as Mayflower’s school resource officer.
Police Chief Robert Alcon said prior to Officer Dalton Tyner’s firing, he knew his department was bound to lose an officer soon.
"It’s been rumored for a while that unless the sales tax increased [layoffs were coming]," he said. "I kind of knew it was coming but was hoping there was another way."
Losing an officer has thrown Alcon into rotation, causing him to have less time to handle his administrative duties as chief.
"We’re really hurting," he said, noting he doesn’t think the city realizes the affect losing one officer has on the department. "It’s going to be tough to get these guys some vacations. A lot of comp time that’s tough to give them."
A lot more goes on in the city than the officials realize, he said.
"Right now we’re coping but we’re worried about the future," Alcon said, noting there weren’t enough officers to follow-up on reports at this time.
According to financial documents received through FOIA, the city’s revenue plummeted in 2014. However, it has since improved.
The Log Cabin Democrat compared Mayflower’s monthly trends for year-to-date sales tax revenue from 2014 to 2017 for January through October because numbers are not in for November and December 2017. The numbers show Mayflower is on track to break even at the end of 2017.
"I think we’re going to break even," Financial Director Dale Carter said. "Hopefully we will. It’s not as much as we need, but it looks like we could break even."
In 2015, the city saw a $186,302 decline in sales tax revenue from the previous year. In 2016, the city saw an $82,413 loss in revenues compared to 2015. In 2017, numbers available through October show the city currently sees a $62,866 loss. When compared to previous years, the city shows it is in good standing to break even with last year’s sales.
The numbers show that while Mayflower’s sales tax revenues are down, they are no longer declining. In fact, they have been steadily improving over the past three years.
In addition to less revenue, the city had to pay a $64,999 settlement to a former Mayflower officer.
Mark Winchester, who was fired from MPD on Aug. 26, 2014, filed a whistle-blower suit against city officials. The civil suit accused Alcon and Mayor Randy Holland of conspiring to terminate his employment after he wrote a letter to aldermen exposing what "appeared to be a cover-up by city officials," including theft of city fuel by members of the police department, a driving while intoxicated offense by an officer and officers working for Exxon during their shifts with MPD during the Exxon oil-spill clean-up and other allegations.
Carter said that while the Municipal Legal Defense Program reimbursed the city $32,499.50 for the settlement, money paid out as part of the settlement, which was paid through the general fund, was not included in the city’s 2017 budget.
On Wednesday, Holland reiterated statements he made the night Tyner was laid off. During the Oct. 23 council meeting, he said city revenues were down $130,000, which could be attributed to a decline in money accrued from the city’s sales tax as well as from fines collected by the court.
When asked whether the settlement with Winchester affected the officer’s position with the city, Holland said, "No."
"The settlement had nothing to do with it," he said.
Carter first addressed the city with his concerns of its financial situation in December. He addressed Holland and city council members again "around May" to propose a revised budget.
Instead of revisiting the city’s financial crisis, a Mayflower officer was hired in May. That same officer — Tyner — was laid off in October.
Carter told the Log Cabin on Wednesday that Tyner’s firing would not affect the city’s financial situation. He had not worked with the city long enough to affect the city’s financial standing, nor would it improve the city’s financial standing by eliminating his position, Carter said.
Records show the settlement was reached Oct. 23, the same day MPD was forced to lay off an officer.
Projects from Carter show the city will see further constrictions in its upcoming budget.
Mayor Holland noted following the Oct. 23 council meeting the city’s next budget would be "extremely conservative."
When asked directly whether the city would see more layoffs in the near future, Carter said Mayflower needs to save money wherever possible.
"I’ll be frank," he said. "It’s not a pretty picture. I see some changes … I’m not going to say layoffs at this point. The budget as I have it now is tight, we don’t spend ourselves in the red. We’ve got to do better."
The next Mayflower City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall. Aldermen will discuss the city’s 2018 budget.