Kemah Says It's Firing Cops Due To Ike; Cops Think Otherwise

Maybe you heard, but Hurricane Ike smashed up Kemah pretty badly, and things aren't looking too good for the city these days.

Sure, the vaunted boardwalk is coming back, and the local Wal-Mart is scheduled to reopen today, but the city has reported about a $400,000 loss in revenue after Ike-related damage closed the boardwalk for three months. So, city officials have planned a "strategic planning meeting" to decide how to address the shortage of money. It's scheduled for 7 o'clock tonight at the Jimmy Walker Community Center, at 800 Harris Ave., in Kemah.

The police department already laid off four officers, dropping the police force to 19 cops, a move designed to ease the budget woes, according to the city. Furthermore, the city planned to name a new police chief in April, but that position remains vacant, apparently to save money.

But not everyone buys the city's explanation.

"Looking at the city's finances, I don't think that's true," says Greg Cagle, the attorney representing the four officers who were let go. The officers have filed grievances with the city, and Cagle said he doesn't know if a lawsuit will follow. "You'd expect them to look city-wide for places to trim, not just the police department. It makes me skeptical."

A representative from the city wasn't available for comment.

An ulterior motive for laying off the four officers isn't known, but Cagle says "we'd sure like to find out," but, apparently, the city didn't follow its policy. According to Cagle, policy states that lay-offs are based on performance, and if there's a tie in the evaluations, seniority rules. But City Administrator Bill Kerber told the Bay Area Citizen, "It's not the person. It was the position."

"A couple of [of the officers] think it's because of their membership in the police officer association, they were on the board," Cagle says. "A couple of them think it was because who they were friends with."

He added that some of the officers had made some arrests that were politically unpopular.

"In a small town, you don't arrest people for breaking the law," Cagle says. "First you look at what they did, then you have to look at who they are."

Looking at the agenda, it doesn't look like the police issue will be addressed at tonight's meeting between the city council and Kemah Community Development Corporation, but we wouldn't be surprised if someone brings it up during the public comments.

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight