MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – Public safety employees in Midwest City are leading the effort to recall Mayor Dee Collins for his apparent failure to support the police and fire departments.
The recall petition drive will start next week, according to Doug Beabout, president of the Midwest City firefighters union. The petition drive will require 433 signatures to force Collins into a recall election.
“We’re just one trip away to the printer’s from having the forms ready to circulate,” Beabout said Tuesday in a telephone interview with Red Dirt Report.
Collins, who spent 30 years on the Midwest City police department, did not return a phone call for comment.
“He doesn’t stand up for public safety like you might expect,” Beabout said. “That (time on the police department) doesn’t translate into being a good mayor. Under Mr. Collins’ leadership, the council is rubber stamping whatever (city manager) Guy Henson wants or doesn’t want. The mayor is the leader of the council and he has an office that is 15 steps from the city manager, but nothing gets done. We need to re-establish leadership on the council.”
Collins isn’t the only city leader facing criticism from public safety employees. City Manager Guy Henson has come under fire for opposing the union’s request to hire more firefighters and for supporting the closure of Fire Station 6. The council reversed course on closing the station, but only after heavy public backlash.
According to Beabout, the city has proposed hiring three new firefighters, but an examination of the city’s budget by the union showed extra money that would allow two more firefighters to be hired. That, the union rep said, would place the fire department at a 96 percent staffing level.
Beabout claims the city did not bargain in good faith and that Collins and Henson then tried to offer the union a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
“Our response was ‘we don’t want a raise. We want you to hire more firefighters,’” he said.
Henson did not return a phone call for comment.
The unions are hopeful a change in the mayoral position would force a thorough examination of Henson’s performance. The council conducts an annual review of Henson’s work, but the evaluation is kept confidential because it is considered a personnel matter.
The unions presented the results of a no-confidence vote at Tuesday’s city council meeting, which drew more than 100 people. The vote showed 98 percent of all Midwest City police officers and firefighters do not believe Henson or Collins “fit to hold their respective positions.”
“We, the public safety professionals of Midwest City, will no longer tolerate city leaders whose actions increase the threat to our lives and the lives of the citizens we so faithfully serve,” according to a letter signed by Beabout and Archie Houston, president of the Midwest City Fraternal Order of Police.
The letter assures Midwest City residents “this vote in no way will affect our dedication to serving you. We stand ever ready, as we always have, to risk our own lives to protect you and your loved ones from any threat to your safety.”
Henson and Collins read prepared statements prior to the no-confidence vote being announced. The statements were declarations of their dedication and hard work for Midwest City and decried the unions’ attacks.
Before Tuesday’s council meeting, Houston said the goal of Midwest City’s public safety agencies is to make the police and fire departments a priority once again and to replace Collins and Henson with leaders who “value the employees of Midwest City.”
Houston maintains Henson’s philosophy for staffing is based on budget numbers, not calls for service. In addition to the police and fire departments, other non-unionized city employees are supportive of the recall petition and the no-confidence vote.
“They feel the same way we do, but they can’t say anything because they can be fired for any reason,” he said.
Houston and Beabout are hopeful the no-confidence vote will initiate discussions among the council members to fire Henson.
“They haven’t said a whole lot about keeping him or removing him,” Houston said. “But he’s got a heckeva contract. He’s got a golden parachute if they do get rid of him.”
Henson reportedly would receive a year’s salary and all of his paid leave.