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Southlake civil service proposal fails nearly 3-to-1

SOUTHLAKE — City residents overwhelmingly voted against a proposition Saturday that would have placed Southlake police officers and firefighters under state civil service law.

Voters rejected the ballot question 73 percent to 27 percent. Had it passed, civil service law would have replaced city policy for hiring, promotions, salaries, disciplinary matters and other personnel issues for police and firefighters.

The Place 6 City Council race will go into a runoff June 14 between Pam Muller and Suzanne Maisto. Nearly 15 percent of the city’s 17,855 registered voters participated in Saturday’s election.

Two groups, the Southlake Police Officers Association and the Southlake Firefighters Association, campaigned in support of civil service to bring what they believed would be fairness to the city’s Department of Public Safety. A political action committee, Citizens for Professional Fire and Police, also formed to back civil service.

Opponents said civil service would increase the city’s personnel costs, remove local government control and be akin to unionizing the city’s DPS. The City Council, the Southlake Chamber of Commerce and the political action committee Southlake Citizens for Good Local Government campaigned to defeat the proposition.

“The citizens group did an incredible job of getting information out citywide,” said City Councilwoman Laura Hill, who opposed civil service. “We had a positive message, and a well-informed message.” The campaign against civil service should not be construed against the city’s public safety workers, she said.

“We obviously think the world of our police and firefighters,” Hill said. The city has already been examining issues that police and firefighters wanted to address through civil service, she said.

Ryan Sessums, president of the Southlake Firefighters Association, said police and firefighters were not as well-organized as the opposition and didn’t have as much money to spend.

Sessums and Andy Anderson, president of the Southlake Police Association, said that they did not view the vote as an indictment of their departments and that no hard feelings exist between public safety employees and city management. Also on Saturday, community volunteer Muller, 56, took 42.3 percent of the vote. Real estate agent Maisto, 49, took 31.4 percent. Ralph Williams, 65, an accountant, received 26.3 percent. The seat was vacated by councilwoman Carolyn Morris.

Place 1 Councilwoman Laura Hill ran unopposed.

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