BOGATA — It just might have been the shortest meeting Bogata City Council ever experienced; certainly several onlookers called it “historic.”
Then-Mayor Vincent Lum called the meeting to order, announced his resignation, and left through the door, escorted by state troopers, to the sound of cheers from the spectators outside, many of whom were holding signs supporting Police Chief David Short and his department.
Not 30 seconds later, Councilman Don Roach announced his resignation as well and walked out the door.
“This (expletive), he just wanted to micromanage and tell the police how to do their jobs,” said Donna Rozell, head of the Crime Control and Prevention District in Bogata, while wearing a “Team Short” T-shirt.
Short said the meeting was “history-making” for Bogata, and he had no hard feelings against Lum.
“I wish nothing but the best for the old mayor,” Short said. “I’m excited to be a part of the new administration.”
It all began when City Council started its budget sessions for the 2020-21 year. Short, who is on a year-to-year contact with the city, requested a dollar an hour raise for himself and his four officers. At the council’s Aug. 17 special meeting, several audience members got upset with Lum over his perceived micromanaging of the police department, as well as denying the raise and admonishing the department for not bringing in more revenue.
“I didn’t say tickets, I said generate revenue,” Lum said at that meeting. “Part of their job is enforcing the law. If they’re not enforcing it, how are they generating revenue?”
Former mayor Michael Garretson was thrown out of the meeting for shouting over Lum about the way the mayor has set up the budget, including the police department.
As part of the negotiations for the chief’s contract, Lum had the city attorney change some of the requirements for the chief, including having his officers patrol all of the city streets once every two hours.
“When I hired on, I promised to patrol the city streets three times a day and was told two times was enough,” Short said. “You just took what you wanted out of there and make your own decisions.”
After it was pointed out that establishing ticket quotas was illegal in the state of Texas, Lum repeated that he wasn’t saying the department needed to establish ticket quotas, just that he wanted it to “generate revenue.”
“That’s insane,” an audience member is heard saying on the meeting recording.
In the meeting, Short spoke up about what he does in Bogata, which is mainly focus on major crimes, like burglary, not on writing tickets for minor offenses.
“We’ve got three DPS officers hanging around saying, ‘give us your DWIs,’” Short said, adding he and his officers generally don’t write that many traffic violation tickets.
He said he has done his best to improve Bogata with what he has.
“We have worked diligently and hard to get Bogata to where we are now,” Short said. “The tax money does not support my police department in any way except salary and maybe one utility.
“I just want to be a good officer for this town and a good chief.”
The mayor entertained a motion on the chief’s contract, but it died. A second motion to take no action prevailed as audience members called for the mayor to retire.
At Monday night’s meeting, the discussion was to continue on the contract, but with the resignations of Lum and Roach, a quorum was no longer available. Mayor Pro Tem Jacob Rose took over as mayor, but he said he wasn’t sure what the next step would be.
“I’ll have to get with the city attorney and talk to him about how to proceed,” Rose said after the meeting. “You can only call a special council meeting with four members, and we only have three. It will have to wait until the regular council meeting, which isn’t until October.”
Rozell said there was no reason for the mayor to act the way he did about Short’s contract. The only thing the city provides is the salaries for the police, the rest — everything from phone lines to computers to internet — comes from a ½ cent sales tax through the crime prevention district.
“We buy computers, copy machines, anything these guys need,” Rozell said.
After the meeting, Short said he was touched with the show of support from Bogata residents.
“I was excited about all the people that showed up,” he said. “Words can’t say how I feel.”
He added that he hoped with the new administration, his contract could go back to what it was and the small raise for himself and his officers would be approved.