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California City Police Chief Jesse Hightower fired

Cal City mayor says budget cuts must continue
Posted at 8:37 PM, Apr 22, 2024

CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (KERO) — The turnover of local officials in California City continues. Police Chief, Jesse Hightower, has been fired. Hightower was sworn in as permanent chief in November 2022.

  • Cal City Mayor Kelly Kulikoff says this is "just the tip of the iceberg," regarding cuts that need to be made.
  • Cal City acting city manager Latisha Lamberth has been directed to cut at least 2 million dollars by June.

BROADCAST SCRIPT
Cutting … and chaos continue in California City...

Police chief Jesse Hightower was fired on Monday... the announcement coming not long after city officials removed the fire chief and city clerk. I’m Steve Virgen, your neighborhood reporter… Hightower rose through the ranks during two-plus decades with the Cal City P.D. Now, he’s gone.

“We’re pretty much a city that’s teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.”

Kelly Kulikoff, the Cal City mayor, tells me that the council has directed the acting city manager to cut at least 2 million dollars. And that’s why Hightower was let go.

“I think right now we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more budget cuts coming and they need to come sooner than later," Kulikoff said.

Hightower did not return messages on his phone and was not available for comment on Tuesday.

He made nearly $190,000 per year, lamberth told me.

Hightower’s firing is among a list of controversial events within just the first four months of the year…

Council member Karen Macedonio resigned amid litigation.

The special tax vote failed last month...

A scathing grand jury report was released...

And there was more turnover at the city manager position…

“Unfortunately, it’s kind of playing out like a circus. We have a lot of problems in California City that we need to address. We have extreme budget deficit concerns that we have to tackle," Kulikoff said.

Cal City is scheduled to have a public hearing next Tuesday to consider a special election for the adoption of a public safety special parcel tax.

The current public safety tax expires the end of June.

In Cal City, I’m Steve Virgen your neighborhood reporter.

From Monday night: The turnover of local officials continues in California City, this time with the police chief.

Neighborhood News Reporter Steve Virgen learned that Jesse Hightower was fired. California City, City Manager Latisha Lamberth confirmed the removal of Hightower Monday night.

Hightower was hired as interim chief two years ago and was sworn in as the permanent chief in November 2022.

This move comes as the city council is scheduled to swear in their new city clerk and interim fire chief at Tuesday's meeting.

We most recently talked with Hightower last week as he and several others with the Cal City PD meet with seniors at Desert Jade Senior Housing. Click here to see that story.

In a statement about the move to fire Hightower, Lambert said:

"I would like to address the recent decision made by the council to make significant cuts in the city's budget. As directed, the Acting City Manager, Latisha Lamberth has currently made two cuts which been met with a lot of resistance. While I understand that these decisions are not easy, it is important for us to move forward with the council's wishes in order to ensure the well-being of our city. I recognize that these cuts have caused a lot of stress and tension among the staff and the community. However, in order to move the city forward, we have to support the council's directives and find ways to work together to overcome any challenges that may arise.

One of the most recent cuts made was the departure of Jesse Hightower from the Police Department after serving over 22 years. I want to express my gratitude for his valuable contribution to the city and wish him the very best for his future endeavors. I also want to assure the council and the community that I am fully committed to finding ways to implement the necessary changes in the most effective and efficient manner. I will work closely with the staff and the community to ensure that the impact of these cuts is minimized as much as possible. I understand that this is a difficult time, but I believe that together we can overcome any obstacles and work towards the betterment of our city."


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