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Forced to lay off virtually every city worker, Maywood says it may be a business model for tough times

June 29, 2010 |  6:54 pm

Maywood city leaders said their decision to confront fiscal and insurance problems by laying off virtually every city employee and disbanding its Police Department could serve as a business model for other struggling cities.

Maywood has asked neighboring Bell to take over its day-to-day municipal operations.

"Many cities across the country are following Maywood's action closely," said Maywood Mayor Ana Rosa Rizo. "In light of decreased municipal money from the state and federal government, small and large cities across the country are looking for innovative and cost effective strategies."

Though Maywood's finances were strained, the final blow was the loss of the city's insurance.

Recently, the city of Bellflower declared a state of fiscal emergency and placed a temporary revenue measure on the November ballot. The city is operating at a $1.4-million deficit.

In the Bay Area, the city of San Carlos is considering dismantling its police department and outsourcing police services.

"We've already received inquiries from different entities saying what is Maywood doing? Why are you doing this?" Maywood Councilman Felipe Aguirre said.

Last month Maywood's insurer said the city's general liability and workers' compensation would be canceled effective July 1. The insurance agency, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, said excessive lawsuits filed against Maywood's Police Department and the council's failure to meet a set of conditions that included hiring a city manager and approving a police contract with its neighbor Cudahy, were among the reasons for the cancellation.

Officials contend that since 2006, liability claims against the city have dropped from $12 million to $260,000. Additionally, city leaders said they tried to hired a city manager, but either the candidates turned down the job or were scared off by residents who warned the candidates of the city's politics and  history of corruption, said Angela Spaccia, the interim city manager.

The Maywood City Council last week unanimously approved a plan to dismantle the 86-year-old Police Department and begin contracting law enforcement services with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The contract will cost $3.6 million a year, according to city and sheriff officials. Until recently, the cost of operating its own police department has been estimated at $7.8 million a year.

"Because of the many different problems we inherited, we took an opportunity and made a bold step," Aguirre said. "It's a big step and a scary step…"

The council also agreed to contract some municipal services with neighboring Bell. Among some of the services provided by Bell are human resources, finance, records management and parks and recreation. Maywood would be billed about $50,833. City leaders say the city would save about $164,375 a year.

Maywood's decision to contract its police and city services will leave 96 police and city employees without jobs. Officials contend some employees will be hired as city contractors. Maywood's police officers will also have the opportunity to apply with the Sheriff's Department, but that process could take months.

--Ruben Vives