South Tucson fires police chief - Tucson News Now

South Tucson fires police chief

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
SOUTH TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

South Tucson has fired Police Chief Michael Ford following a tense exchange with Mayor Ildefonso Green at a council meeting on Monday, June 19.

The exchange happened when the mayor accused Ford of giving false information to the media about the town's plan to close a budget deficit.

KOLD News 13 was among those reporting that the town was looking at possibly shutting down it's police and fire departments as a means to close the deficit.

The town would then contract out for those services. Those were the only two departments large enough to cover the $650,000 deficit.

The mayor told KOLD News 13 that at no time did he say that both would be considered although all options were on the table.

He said Ford spread the word that all public safety could be in jeopardy. Following an exchange and some explicit language according to the mayor, Ford walked out.

"That was insubordination, big time," the mayor said at the meeting. "If he can't talk civil and he can't get to that point, I want him called in."

Town Manager Sixto Molina said he terminated Ford's contract after that.

"With regard to the termination, I elected not to renew his contract," Molina said. "I can't really get into any details why."

Ford issued a statement saying he thanked the people of South Tucson for the honor of service to them.

South Tucson has had a history of economic and internal strife in recent years. 

Five city managers in five years, two recall elections, a default on its garbage bill, and a county bailout on its jail bill in recent years has left the town reeling. That coupled with a debt the city has wrestled with for the past 37 years still haunts taxpayers.

A shooting by a South Tucson police officer, which left a Tucson police officer paralyzed, cost the city more than $3 million in a settlement.

It still has not been paid in full because the city, which bonded to pay it, continues to refinance the debt rather than pay the principal.

At the rate it's going, however, there is a plan which could have it paid off in 2037, nearly 60 years after the shooting. But it appears the best option for the city is to increase its economic base.

"We're working with other jurisdictions to find a way to increase our business investment," Molina said. 

He points out the town has 70 acres of land that could be developed and there's talk the streetcar extension could go down South 6th Avenue, giving the city "a shot in the arm." 

But those are long-term goals. In the short term, the town is talking about increasing its tax on rental property, which says is historically low.

While there is some opposition to that, Molina points out the alternative could be worse.

If the town is forced to disincorporate because it can't pay its bills, it becomes part of the county.

Pima County, it is well known, has the highest property tax rate in the state. 

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