Hollingsworth: Tardiness prompted Ridgell's firing

Continued tardiness was the issue that prompted the Oct. 15 firing of Pine Bluff City Collector Albert Ridgell, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth confirmed Thursday.

Ridgell’s termination form, signed by Hollingsworth and Human Resources Director Vickie Conaway, states that Ridgell arrived for work at 8:50 a.m. the day of his dismissal, nearly an hour after his scheduled 8 a.m. start time.

The form also noted that Ridgell, a Little Rock resident who had served as collector since June 2007 and earned an annual salary of nearly $52,000, had acknowledged understanding of an Aug. 28 letter from Hollingsworth that all department heads must report to their jobs by 8 a.m. Conaway and Hollingsworth senior aide Evelyn Horton attended a meeting in which Ridgell received the notice.

Ridgell had told the the mayor that her predecessor — Carl A. Redus Jr. — had authorized him to delay his work arrival until 8:30 a.m. so Ridgell could deliver his child to school. Hollingsworth told Ridgell that his agreement with Redus would no longer be recognized.

The following day, the record indicates, Ridgell was about 80 minutes late.

Ridgell refused to sign his termination form.

Previously, the mayor had said only that the dismissal was based on Ridgell’s insubordination.

Hollingsworth was asked Thursday what her plans are on hiring a new collector.

“I’m still considering things,” said the mayor. “I’m not so sure that we can’t figure out a way for the collector’s duties to be absorbed by current personnel and without filling that position again. Cities everywhere these days are having to make similar considerations in an effort to be more thrifty with budgeting and more work-efficient with personnel.”

Hollingsworth said she’s considering similar options with the responsibilities of the inspection and zoning department directorship, from which Robert Tucker resigned Monday. Tucker will continue through the end of October.

“There may be some way we can combine some chores with that role, too,” the mayor said. “With the economy we’ve got right now, it’s a necessity to find ways to save money whenever possible.”