MIDWEST CITY, OK — A petition by fire and police unions to recall Midwest City Mayor Jay Dee Collins over concerns about public safety has been validated, triggering a recall election.
“I just think that they don’t see the whole picture,” Collins said. “I feel like the union leadership for the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) and the International Association of Firefighters has really led their membership astray with this deal.”
“The response, over 1,000 signatures, was overwhelmingly in favor of the recall. It’s important to note that it wasn’t the FOP or the firefighter’s association that recalled the mayor, it was over 1,000 citizens of Midwest City that do not agree with what the city and mayor are doing to the police and fire department,” the Midwest City Firefighter’s Association stated in a news release.
During the summer, the city announced plans to close one fire station as a cost saving measure, citing sluggish sales tax revenue growth the past few years. The decision was reversed and all fire stations remained open, but one engine was taken out of service and five firefighter vacancies remain unfilled.
Firefighters picketed in response to the city’s decision and paid for a billboard declaring that Collins and City Manager Guy Henson did not care about public safety.
Collins, a retired police officer elected in February with the support of the firefighters, said the accusation is baseless.
“Well I mean, you know, my career was in public safety, I did 30 years at the police department,” he said. “I’ve been on the city council now (for) four years and for them to put a billboard up that says I don’t care about public safety is gross and misleading I think, because obviously that’s not true and then they do the vote of non-confidence, and so they do that and I was really kind of shocked by that.”
Collins said after being elected, he assumed responsibility for the entire community, not just one department.
“Your perception changes and you have an overall responsibility to the entire community and not just those guys, or not just us, you know, because I was (one of) them,” he said.
The petition to recall Collins was coordinated by the Midwest City Firefighters Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, who claim decisions made by the mayor and city manager the past few months jeopardize public safety.
“The initiation of the petition was brought about because of the decisions made by city management and endorsed by the mayor. The FOP and Firefighters Association firmly believe that these decisions unnecessarily increase the risk to the citizens and first responders of Midwest City,” the firefighter’s association said.
Collins said he does not believe people who signed the recall petition are representative of the community as a whole, and he said he will be running for re-election as an obligation to voters who put him in office.
“My thought is that when I took this job, it was to do what’s best for the entire community,” he said. “If I were to decide, you know, this is just not worth the $400 a month that it pays and just walk away, then I’ve done a huge disservice to the voters that elected me. I feel an obligation to stay with this thing and see it through.”
Members of the Midwest City Council are scheduled to meet Tuesday to accept the petition and consider setting an election for next year.