Mitchell"Somebody has to hold the city manager's feet to the fire"

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/4/18 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia city manager Mike Matthes has been lying about a public safety property tax, a Columbia police detective told the City Council Monday.  

Mr. Matthes promised he would increase salaries and improve working conditions for police officers and firefighters with the new tax. 
But "the city manager never had any intention of using the money from a tax increase to give any significant raises," said Det. Alan Mitchell, president of the Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA).  "The language Mr. Matthes wanted to put into our contract was a lie.  It was a deception." 
Instead, Matthes will probably supplement other departments with a public safety tax, Mitchell said, detailing "dirty tricks" the city manager uses to discourage city employees from seeking higher wages or better working conditions. 

Using "'city' and 'city manager' interchangeably," Mitchell told the Council he was "here to question how serious the city is about fixing its ongoing issues.  The city manager is the one in charge and has made it clear...that he is the only one allowed to make a decision."
While trust has increased between police officers and their embattled Chief Ken Burton, their relationship with Mr. Matthes has deteriorated significantly, Mitchell explained. 

"Our fear of how we would be treated by the city manager has come true," Mitchell said. 

Mr. Matthes uses an equity ploy to push back on employees who ask for raises, better equipment, or other improvements that cost their particular departments money, Mitchell explained.  "The city manager's quest to make everything equal is kind of ruining things."   

If one department asks for a dollar an hour raise, for instance, the city manager "costs out" that raise across the entire city. He can then deny it based on the higher cost of extending it to everyone.

"If the item can't be afforded for the entire city, it's rejected," Mitchell said. "If it can be afforded or it's cost neutral, Matthes comes to the other unions and says 'hey, the fire union asked for this, so we're also giving it to you,' even though it's not something you asked for."

Matthes' equity ploy has taken a toll, Mitchell explained, ironically harming morale and undermining public safety

"The city manager is saying a job that requires no education and a day or two of training is the exact same kind of job as one that requires constant training, high integrity, and a willingness to risk your life," he said. "He's also saying a first-day employee is exactly the same as someone who has dedicated twenty years of their life to the city.  The city manager is crazy" to think this. 

The property tax lie started after CPOA presented a plan to raise taxes in exchange for higher salaries. 

"We put forward that if we supported a tax increase and helped get it passed, we wanted a salary increase," Mitchell told the Council.  "The only thing Matthes was willing to do was put a paragraph in our contract that said, 'if you support a tax increase, we promise to maybe give you a raise.'  Maybe. I'm not sure what makes the city manager believe we would trust any promise like that." 

A final plea from CPOA "only made things worse," Mitchell said. In response to it, Matthes sent the group a letter claiming that the "foreseeable future of the city is grim, and that he does not foresee finances recovering." 

He also made several specious and confusing arguments. 
"The city manager wrote that he could not guarantee any raise, because if he did, there's no way he could know what you, the Council, would vote on for a tax ballot," Mitchell said.  "He also argued that he might have to lay off employees, even with the tax increase.  I didn't understand that." 

Mitchell concluded his presentation reminding Council members that a Boone County Circuit Court Judge had recently found Matthes guilty of violating the Sunshine Law, costing the city $28,000 in awarded legal fees.

"The whole point of the Sunshine Law violation was to cover up lies--other lies," Mitchell said. "Something's got to change.  Somebody has to hold the city manager's feet to the fire."