VOL. 130 | NO. 229 | Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Conrad: Mike Williams ‘Should Be Fired’
By Bill Dries
Incoming Memphis City Council chairman Kemp Conrad thinks the city should consider firing Mike Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association, for helping recruiters from other police forces set up job fairs in Memphis.
“I think that’s a gross violation of the personnel policy, and he should be fired,” Conrad said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.”
Conrad made the comment about Williams’ job as a Memphis Police Department officer as he talked about future council decisions to come on employee benefits.
Behind The Headlines, hosted by The Daily News publisher Eric Barnes, can be seen on The Daily News Video Page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
Conrad said sick leave and holiday pay benefits have become “unsustainable” and that union leaders are unwilling to bend on that and other issues.
“We have tried to work with those folks. They are not willing to give anything because if they give anything, they are going to lose their next election,” he said. “And so that hasn’t worked. Now we’ve got people like Mike Williams and the police union helping other cities coming here and recruiting officers.”
Williams, who ran for Memphis mayor on the October ballot, has said his union isn’t encouraging Memphis police officers to leave for other cities. He said the MPA is helping members who would be looking for jobs elsewhere anyway because of recent changes in benefits and pay.
Conrad begins his yearlong term as council chairman in January.
He and Mayor-elect Jim Strickland say they want to see the police force increase in size from the current 2,000 uniformed officers to at least 2,400. Outgoing Mayor A C Wharton and council member Harold Collins, who ran for mayor, also called for a police force of 2,400.
But new council member Martavius Jones, who takes office Jan. 1, isn’t convinced that adding more officers is the answer.
“It’s going to be an interesting conversation where we don’t have a full complement of officers but the statistics indicate that crime is down,” he said during Behind the Headlines. “Before we increase an already disproportionately large budget for public safety … we will still need to take a closer look and drill down those numbers and say what is the complement we should have.”
Jones is a former member of the legacy Memphis City Schools board and the Shelby County Schools board. He was elected to a Super District council seat Oct. 8.
There are also likely to be other changes surrounding public safety in Memphis.
Strickland announced Friday, Nov. 20, that current police director Toney Armstrong will remain in his position temporarily. But Strickland is conducting a search for a new police director that eventually will take Armstrong’s place.
Conrad says city government is looking at a budget shortfall of $25 million to $70 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The exact amount depends on city health insurance costs and how the recent changes to health insurance coverage for city of Memphis employees shake out. There also is a $78 million second installment toward the city’s annual pension contribution goal.
The health insurance and pension liabilities affect each other because some insurance coverage savings have been applied to the pension liability.
“It’s a big number,” Conrad said. “It’s probably 10 percent of the overall budget.”
Jones, a financial planner, said the new council and mayor will have to continue to make tough decisions.
“Especially when we do not have a growing or increasing revenue source,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have to have a separate pension plan for the first responders but perhaps having a different calculation in how their benefits are paid.”
Strickland’s first budget proposal is due before the city council in April, four months after he takes office.
Because of the short time frame, Strickland has said that his first budget proposal is likely to be built on a framework set by the Wharton administration.
In his announcement last week of city directors who will stay on under his direction, Strickland said Wharton’s finance director Brian Collins will be reappointed.