Tony Simmons

Reno Police Chief Tony Simmons

RENO — Reno Police Chief Tony Simmons soon may be the lone member of the force.

Simmons told the Reno city council in August that he was rapidly losing officers, projecting his department would not be able to cover night watch at the beginning of September. Speaking Monday night, he said the reason for an item on the meeting’s agenda — reconsideration of hiring another police officer by the chief and authorizing him to recommend the hiring of up to four officers — was to protect those four positions.

“Because as of the 22nd, they will be gone,” Simmons said.

The council had previously given its approval to fill a vacant position on the force, but the item was brought back during last week’s meeting, at which the council voted to authorize the chief to recommend the hiring of up to four officers.

In the past couple of weeks, members of the Pelican Bay Police Department and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office have stepped in to provide coverage as the Reno police force no longer could cover its jurisdiction.

“We’re just trying to help out when we can with patrols or any emergency calls, until they can get back on their feet,” Parker County Sheriff Russ Authier said. “They are Parker County residents also, so if they need help, we’re there for them.”

One resident last week said she was disappointed in the Reno officers who left, adding “that tells me they were not really committed to the citizens and this town.”

However, two former officers have filed labor claims with the state against the city for unpaid wages following their promotions.

Jason Schmidt, who joined Reno PD at the end of 2018, was promoted to the open position of lieutenant on Aug. 1. The promotion was supposed to come with a raise in pay from $28 an hour to $32, but that didn’t happen, according to Schmidt’s claim.

“Mayor is refusing to give raise given to me by the chief of police and city administrator,” Schmidt noted in his wage claim, submitted to the state Aug. 19.

Schmidt’s new role made him supervisor of John Thompson III, who was promoted to sergeant Aug. 1, with a pay raise of approximately $4 more per hour.

“Mayor stated the council did not approve our promotions,” Thompson wrote in his wage claim as to the reasoning for not being paid. “The council does not handle promotions and our chief followed all policies.”

Those policies were called into question at last month’s meeting, during which council members tabled Simmons’ request for the new salaries and take-home vehicles.

One council member said he was unaware that the officers had already been promoted, with Mayor Pro Tem Randy Martin adding they “want to be a part of it” any time there’s a promotion.

Simmons told the board he had mentioned the promotions to City Administrator Scott Passmore, as he was required to do, and had then been asked to put the item on the agenda. Simmons added that it would not have an affect on his department’s budget, as the salaries were already set for the officers who had vacated those positions.

Schmidt echoed Simmons’ reasoning in his claim to the Texas Workforce Commission, noting that the city “stated that the pay raise has to go before council. However, it’s already budgeted.”

Copies of responses sent by the city of Reno to the Texas Workforce Commission argue that there are no unpaid wages due to either officer.

A copy of the responses, which were submitted to the state on Sept. 13, argue that since Reno is a Type-A general law Texas municipality, approval of municipal employees’ salaries and/or promotions require city council approval.

“The City Council did not approve any action regarding an increase in pay or a promotion in regards to Mr. Schmidt” and “Mr. Thompson,” according to the responses. “The police chief has no authority over salaries and promotions.”

“There are no city ordinances or other documentation providing the police chief with authority over promotions or salary increases. Accordingly, the city respectfully requests that this claim [is] denied. In addition, any Reno Police Explorer Post 953 employee service record created by the police chief was not approved by the City Council.”

Schmidt left the department Sept. 2, and Thompson’s last day was Sept. 9.

Reno PD, when fully staffed, employs seven full-time officers and one part-time officers.

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