Employment Contract or Lifetime Guarantee? The Provisions of Baldwin Park Police Chief’s Hiring Are Downright Bizarre.
The details of a recent employment agreement between Baldwin Park and its chief of police have left residents and municipal government experts scratching their heads.
When Baldwin Park rehired Michael Taylor as its police chief, the city included a provision in his contract that makes him exceedingly difficult to fire.
Taylor can only be terminated from his $234,000-a-year job, according to the agreement, if he commits a felony.
Baldwin Park leaders also prohibited themselves from giving Taylor annual performance evaluations. The agreement allows the council to place Taylor on administrative leave — but with pay.
The City Council approved the unusual contract in November.
The contract term is only for one year. But if the council doesn’t renew it, Taylor gets a severance package worth three months’ salary.
Michael Jenkins, adjunct professor of local government law at USC, asks the obvious question: if it takes a felony to get fired, why even show up for work when you don’t feel like it?
Jenkins and other municipal government experts interviewed by the L.A. Times said they had never seen a contract like this before.
Councilmembers have gone on record to defend the agreement, which was approved 3-2. Its onerous termination requirements were meant to ensure stability for a city and department that has seen its fair share of tumult in recent years, they said.
Baldwin Park’s desire for stability is understandable. The city’s last police chief David Salcedo was fired shortly after taking the job. He’s now suing the city for discrimination and wrongful termination, claiming status as a whistleblower.
Chief Taylor held the job just before Salcedo. He too was fired in September of 2016 amid claims of racism and pushed into an early retirement. By a split vote, the council then voted to bring him back. As a condition, he “asked for ironclad protection from being fired short of committing a felony as a kind of ‘safety net,’” reports the L.A. Times.
But the story gets even weirder.
Taylor was recently elected board member at West Valley Water District in Rialto, about 39 miles from Baldwin Park, soon after returning as police chief.
One of Taylor’s first actions as a new director on Dec. 7 was to vote for a new attorney to serve the district: Robert Tafoya, the Baldwin Park city attorney who weeks earlier presented the chief’s employment contract to that city’s council for approval.
Tafoya had done work for the district before. Taylor made the motion at the district board meeting to hire him back. Taylor’s involvement in Tafoya’s hiring has raised serious ethical concerns.
Then there’s the interesting matter of Taylor’s pension. When Taylor was first pushed into retirement, he received a pension of around $177,800. Now that he’s returned to the job at an annual salary of $234,000 he’s looking an even more generous retirement package when he finally decides to step down again (more than $200,000 per year). The added protection from termination means Taylor doesn’t have to worry about reverting back to a pension of 177,800.
Read more at the L.A. Times.