Kevin Jones, the city’s chief of police, will retire effective May 28. File photo

Council unanimously approves Jones’ contract as chief of police, city administrator

Kevin Jones, Susanville’s chief of police, will also serve as the city administrator, according to a contract unanimously approved at the Susanville City Council’s Wednesday, Sept. 16 meeting.

After introducing the discussion of the item by the council, Mayor Mendy Schuster asked Margaret Long, city attorney, to explain the process the city had followed to arrive at its consideration of Jones to serve simultaneously in both positions. Long attended the meeting telephonically.

Long said the city followed its recruitment procedures — received applications, candidates were interviewed by a committee, made a recommendation to the council that then interviewed the top two applicants.

“The council did select the top candidate and asked that I engage in negotiations to try and get them to come on board as city administrator,” Long said. “The candidate was very forthright, and (we) had great discussions. I made it very clear about the city’s financial situation and what they were willing to offer — there was no way to bring her on board at this time.”

Long said she received an email from the candidate recommending keeping Jones on as city administrator due to the cost savings and the fact everything was going so well. Long said the candidate also said that would give the city an opportunity to do some long-term planning.

“That was brought back to the council to consider,” Long said, “and the council requested that I negotiate to keep Mr. Jones on as the city administrator as well as the police chief.”

Long said this is an at-will contract and if it doesn’t work out, Jones can return to his position as chief of police. The contract term is for one year with opportunities to renew.

According to Long it is “legally allowed” for Jones to hold both positions.

“These two positions have been determined not to be incompatible,” Long advised the council, “meaning it is appropriate to have someone in both positions without creating any conflict. It’s done, actually, quite regularly throughout the state, combining these positions, and so we do have some good examples of it being done. We do have some good decisions from the attorney general saying this is an appropriate combination of positions.

“It’s also appropriate for the chief of police to report directly to the city council, and since the chief of police and the city administrator are one, they’ll both report to council, so the position does have a supervisor and the supervisor is the city council, and that is appropriate as well.”

According to Long’s interpretation, Jones holding both positions represents a “significant” savings for the city.

City Finance Manager Debbie Savage, said from a financial perspective this decision “makes my day. Knowing the situation the city is in, this is a huge financial help.”

Savage reported Jones currently earns $196,000 a year as chief of police. With the negotiated 20 percent increase for serving as city administrator, Jones’ salary and benefits package will rise to $234,000. Serving in both positions, Savage said Jones will earn an additional $954 dollars every two weeks.

“By combining the two positions, you will have an estimated savings of $185,000 next year,” Savage said.

She said the savings may be even larger when the Care tax money comes in and some of Jones’ salary may be applied to that money because “he is public safety.”

Responding to a concern from councilmember Kevin Stafford about Jones not being at the police department full time, Jones said Captain Ryan Cochran is both learning the job and doing a good job.

“I do appreciate that. I believe I have the support of the community to at least make an effort here,” Jones said. “I think we’re looking at a roughly $700,000 deficit budget. We can knock out $200,000, I think that’s important, and (we’ll) see what happens a year from now. I don’t disagree with councilmember Stafford, and if it comes to a point where it’s not working, we ought to fix it … I’ll look for the warning signs. I have a very good second who continues to learn … The city has my assurance, if the department starts to suffer, then I will voluntarily give up this position and go back … ”

Shuster said she appreciated Jones taking this on and helping save the city money. She also said she appreciated Cochran stepping up at the police department.

“I’m very proud of both of you,” Schuster said. “You care enough about the city to continue — I know you guys are public servants, but this is above and beyond.”

Councilmember Thomas Herrera said he had spoken with several Susanville Police officers recently who told him the department has never been so well managed.

“I cannot believe the amount of cases you guys are closing every week,” Herrera said. “I just want to thank you guys for putting in so much work for what you’ve done for both the city hall and the police department. I really think you guys are doing a good job, and it’s only going to get better.”