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Mabton mayor more than doubles police chief's pay without council approval

MABTON - Mabton Mayor Velva Herrera has more than doubled Mabton Police Chief Robert Perales's pay and increased his hours without council approval, city council members learned last night, Tuesday.

City Council members also learned that Perales and city clerk Kitty Curtiss voted to go union more than 60 days ago and that the Mayor did not inform them. Without telling council, she allowed the 60-day appeal time to lapse before notifying council.

That apparently upset council members.

When Councilman Angel Reyna asked her why she didn't tell council, Mayor Herrera's answer was unclear. She responded, "It was just like everybody else...job security was the biggest issue."

She added later that she felt it was a personnel issue.

"If we don't know, how can we appeal," asked Reyna.

Councilwoman Vera Zavala said, "We have a right to know what's going on."

Councilman Mario Martinez asked why previous employees weren't given the same chance, like former city clerk Sharon Roy, who Herrera fired last fall.

Councilwoman Oping Hutson said she didn't know why the council existed if it wasn't going to be informed of situations such as this.

Councilwoman Shelley Mireles said, "It just doesn't make any sense."

At the council meeting, Herrera provided a copy to council members of a memo she wrote to Curtiss regarding the increase of Perales's pay and hours.

In the memo, dated yesterday, the same day as the meeting, Herrera said that she is changing the pay from $1,875 a month to $4,000.

She will use the county's law and justice tax to do it, as well as money that was set aside to pay Granger when Mabton was sharing the police chief with that city.

The amount budgeted for Granger was $500 a month. The county's law and justice tax will be used to fund $1,125 of Perales's salary each month.

In trying to explain the use of the funds allocated for Granger's payment to increase Perales's pay, she said that from "July to December, that's $6,000."

Herrera stated in the memo that she reviewed several different resources before approving the pay increase, including what police chiefs earn in similar sized cities. She failed to mention in the memo whether those police chiefs were full or part time.

She also noted in the memo that Perales's hours increased from 20 to 40 hours because of "more work and more coverage."

She said that he was working more hours because officers were using vacation time and that he was also doing training for the police department, reports and filling in for Mabton's student resource officer, who is on vacation for two months.

Perales noted that despite the fact that he is working 40 hours a week, he is not full time. When asked how that could be, he responded, "No benefits."

Herrera told Curtiss that the change is in effect until the end of the year.

In the meantime, City Attorney Jack Maxwell is investigating the legality of Herrera not informing council regarding the union situation until after the appeal time was up.

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