Petition asks for retention of Spears
Supporters of outgoing Police Chief Bill Spears are making one last ditch effort to have the Willows City Council reconsider letting him go when his contract is up on Dec. 30.
A petition began circulating in town over the weekend that will be presented to City Manager Steve Holsinger or individual council members asking for the matter to be placed on Tuesday's agenda.
Spears, who was elected to the council on Nov. 6, said Tuesday that he would have to step aside from his elected position, but that he would be willing to stay on the job if the council reconsiders.
Spears had planned to take office in January.
It is possible some of the signed petitions will be presented during public comment at the special council meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. today.
Although the council has a closed session item regarding possible litigation, the council plans in open session to reaffirm Gary Hansen's seat on the council until he is replaced.
The council voted 2-1 on a resolution Nov. 27, but government code requires a full majority or 3-0 vote for it to pass, officials said.
Hansen would have been retained with or without the formality, according to acting City Attorney Robert Hunt.
But those who want Spears retained say it is a matter of public safety and they want their voices heard.
"The public has a right to be safe," said Stephanie Southam, a mother of four. "We are not asking for anything other than what we — as taxpayers — are entitled to."
Many, like Southam, believe the loss of Spears and K-9 handler Richard Gridley this month to another agency will strain the small Police Department even more than it has been the past few years, after budget cuts forced the layoff of several police officers.
The department is in the process of filling one vacancy, but another officer is on extended medical leave.
Southam attempted to address the city council last week during the public comment period on the need to keep 24-hour police protection in Willows, but was immediately cut off by Vice Mayor Jeff Cobb.
Although Cobb chose to take an unofficial poll of the audience on whether they thought Spears should be retained, supporters after the meeting said they were disappointed that the council once again refused to listen to the public's concerns and comments, although the Ralph M. Brown Act mandates that the public be allowed to comment on items on and not on the agenda.
Neither has the council, since August, allowed the public to address the city's budget or discuss how the police chief's position might be funded.
Spears said he would be willing to negotiate a new contract that could save the city considerable money, if the city council should decide to retain him.
Otherwise, he will retire on Dec. 31 and take his place on the council in January.
"Either way, I am willing to continue serving this community," Spears said.
New City Councilman Larry Mello on Tuesday said he had several people call him to discuss the police's chief's position, but that he had not received a formal request to put the item on the agenda.
He did speculate further discussion might be futile.
"I'm not sure another vote would get a different result," Mello said.
Even if he and newly-elected Larry Domenighini had a differing opinion than the previous City Council, Mello said he believes council members Cobb, Hansen and Terry Taylor Vodden would remain steadfast in their decision not to renew Spears' contract.
The previous City Council was unanimous in that Spears' contact renewal was not best for the city's bottom line.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.