The Pine Bluff City Council Public Works Committee determined Thursday morning that the Parks and Recreation Commission will need to hire its own counsel in any potential legal action stemming from the September firing of City Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker.
Fourth Ward Alderman Steven Mays, who chairs the committee, Fourth Ward Alderman George Stepps and Third Ward Alderman Bill Brumett made the decision after meeting with Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and Parks Commissioner Duke Fakouri.
In a letter to Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Kami Hunt and City Attorney Althea Hadden Scott from Parker’s attorney dated Oct. 31, Parker alleges unlawful retaliation in violation of the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act and wrongful termination based on her race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, against the Parks Commission and the city of Pine Bluff.
Parker, who is white, offered to settle any potential legal action in exchange for $60,000, preservation of her full retirement benefits, and the right to start receiving those benefits on Aug. 1, 2017.
“We need to consider the potential lawsuit of Angela Parker against the city,” Hollingsworth said.
Mays said the interests of taxpayers should be considered in any monetary settlement with Parker.
“I think we need to look at the dollar amount,” Mays said. “This is taxpayer money so we need to take our time on this.”
Stepps said that he had questions about Parker’s claim of whistle-blower status.
“I don’t know what she’s referring to regarding the Whistle-Blower Act,” Stepps said. “Based on the information provided in the letter from her attorney I don’t see it.”
Fakouri — who is identified in the letter as one of the commissioners with whom Parker spoke in an alleged whistle-blower capacity — said that he believed Parker’s conversations with him regarding certain actions of the commission likely were protected under the provisions of the Whistle-Blower Act.
“I’m not willing to settle based on things I don’t know,” Stepps said.
The Public Works Committee also determined that City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott should speak to the Parks Commission at its Nov. 25 meeting and advise the commission to seek legal counsel.
The committee voted to refer an ordinance related to cable television to the full city council for consideration.
City Finance Director Steve Miller said the ordinance would allow the city to collect additional revenue from cable television operators in the city by increasing the fee charged to them for use of the rights-of-way.