Top Stories of 2013, No. 10: City collector’s 2nd firing sticks

It was an eventful year for former Pine Bluff City Collector Albert Ridgell, who was fired twice by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth within a 77-day span. His first dismissal was overturned by the city council, but an override effort after his second termination failed by a single vote, leaving Ridgell unemployed.

The sequence of events surrounding Ridgell was voted the No. 10 story of the year in a poll of The Commercial’s newsroom staff.

Ridgell — a Little Rock resident who had been in the collector’s post since June 2007 — was originally fired July 31 for what Hollingsworth cited as “unsatisfactory work performance that has been documented for some time now.”

In a special called council meeting on Aug. 23, the panel — minus absent Aldermen Bill Brumett and Wayne Easterly — voted 6-0 after a lengthy executive session to reinstate Ridgell. Council members backing Ridgell’s return were Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown, Lloyd Holcomb Jr., Steven Mays and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker.

On Oct. 15, the mayor again gave Ridgell the ax, this time on the grounds of insubordination.

In a regular council session on Oct. 21, Stepps pushed for and received a second override vote, but the effort failed when Holcomb — who is serving his first term on the council— changed his mind and opposed the action along with Brumett and Easterly.

Brumett is the council’s senior member.

The vote was 5-3 in favor of Stepps’ motion, but six votes were needed to reinstate Ridgell.