Mayor says lack of money reason why officer fired

Thursday, February 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CROMWELL, Okla. (AP) -- Cromwell Mayor Tom Grace said the town's empty pockets were the reason that Tom Bottoms, the town's only police officer, was fired.

Bottoms, however, contends he was fired because he ticketed the mayor for driving under suspension. He's hired a lawyer and is circulating a petition around town in hopes of getting his job back.

"Things were great with the mayor until he violated the law,"

Bottoms said. "I was supposed to have gotten a raise. But that went by the wayside when the mayor got arrested."

Grace said Bottoms was fired by the town's board of trustees "for the betterment of the town," though he couldn't cite specific details.

The mayor did hint that the loss of one of the town's main sales tax generators, the Cromwell Travel Plaza, had everything to do with Bottoms' firing.

The travel plaza closed in October and Cromwell's sales tax revenues have suffered since. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the town earned $1,981 in November 2000, less than half the $4,314 it earned in November 1999.

Grace said it costs about $14,400 a year for a police officer's salary and other law enforcement costs -- or about 38 percent of the town's $38,000 annual budget.

The mayor said the town hopes to eventually hire another police officer.

"We've got some grants out there," Grace said. "We should know something (about getting a grant) by spring."

Until a new officer is hired, Cromwell will rely on patrols from the Seminole County Sheriff's office.

Bottoms contends his firing had nothing to do with finances.

Instead, he said Grace convinced two other town trustees to fire him.

He hopes a new town board -- to be installed in April -- will give him his job back.

But Grace will be on that board and said he hopes the new board members won't be influenced by Bottoms' claims.