San Mateo Councilman David Lim opposes a plan to install San Mateo Deputy Police Chief Mike Callagy as Burlingame’s interim police chief, joining rank-and-file cops in Burlingame who share the same sentiment.
Having Callagy take over the Burlingame Police Department on a one-year contract is meant to see whether a consolidation of both departments is feasible, according to a joint letter from Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell and San Mateo City Manager Susan Loftus to police personnel.
"The current proposal was put together too fast with too little information,” said Lim, who is an Alameda County prosecutor. "The process needs to be slowed down and done right.”
Lim opposes the contract because it exposes the city of San Mateo to an unreasonable amount of potential liability unwarranted by the potential benefits of the contract, according to a memo added to the public record on the topic for discussion at the council’s Monday night meeting.
Lim, however, is not opposed to seeking consolidation of police services.
Fellow San Mateo Councilman Robert Ross, a 25-year retired police veteran, has yet to make up his mind on the issue.
"It doesn’t hurt to study the subject,” Ross said. "I think cost efficiencies could be achieved on both ends.”
It would be better if Burlingame hired Callagy as its full-time chief, Lim said, so San Mateo wouldn’t be subject to any potential liabilities related to the contract.
But that idea does not sit well with Councilman Jack Matthews, who said Callagy was named deputy chief in the first place so that he could one day take over for Police Chief Susan Manheimer when she retires or pursues other interests.
Burlingame police have been working without a contract now for 16 months and the force has been reduced by 25 percent, according to Burlingame police Officer Jim Hutchings, who is the vice president of the Burlingame Police Officer’s Association.
Burlingame faces a $3 million deficit this year and potential cost-savings for the city related to shared services is a key reason Callagy is set to be hired.
Burlingame will cover 80 percent of Callagy’s contract, about $240,000.
Hutchings has said administrators are already in place in Burlingame to lead the department and at a lesser cost.
The BPOA wants Ed Wood, the department’s acting chief, and Capt. Mike Matteucci to keep their current positions.
Lim listed four reasons in his memo for opposing the contract, one of them being the fact that the residents of San Mateo and its council have not heard from either Nantell or any representatives of the Burlingame Police Department.
Lim also wonders who Callagy will answer to, Nantell or Loftus.
Consolidation should be explored with the formation of an advisory committee composed of residents, city staff and a law enforcement personnel from San Mateo and Burlingame, according to Lim’s memo.
He is also concerned both councils are set to take a vote on Callagy’s contract at about the same time this coming Monday night.
"I’m worried both councils don’t get to hear each other’s perspectives,” Lim said.
If Burlingame does not realize at least a $500,000 savings a year with a potential merger, it is likely the two departments will not merge, Nantell said previously.
As interim chief, Callagy would work with Manheimer and leadership from both departments to study the possibilities of dispatch consolidation and additional shared services, Nantell wrote in a staff report for Monday’s meeting. Burlingame estimates sharing dispatch would mean about $200,000 in savings.
The two cities will hire a consultant for about $40,000 to help crunch the numbers and provide an objective analysis of potential cost savings of a potential merger.
The San Mateo City Council meets 7 p.m., Monday, City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., San Mateo. The Burlingame City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, City Hall, 501 Primrose Road, Burlingame.
Heather Murtagh contributed to this report.
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