City attorney declares Parks firings invalid

Pine Bluff City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott has declared that the recent terminations of Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker and Community Centers Director Laura Hildreth were invalid. The two will remain on paid leave until the Parks and Recreation Commission meets to consider the matter at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers at city hall.

The meeting will be open to the public and comments will be received.

The commission’s three-member Personnel Committee gave Hildreth and Parker an option to resign or be fired at a Thursday, Dec. 27, meeting. Hildreth was cited for her failed oversight of the Chester Hynes Community Center After-school program. Parker was cited for her “mismanagement” of Hildreth and for not possessing the “skills set” the commission wanted in a director as new projects approach.

Hadden-Scott said the following day that she was checking on the legality of a telephone vote by committee member Kami Hunt and whether the committee had the power to fire a worker or simply recommend a termination to the full, five-member commission.

In a letter to commissioners dated Wednesday, Hadden-Scott wrote, “The personnel committee cannot independently make the decision to terminate any employee. The committee may make its recommendation to the full Parks and Recreation Commission, which will allow all members present to weigh in and ask questions regarding the committee’s recommendation.”

Hadden-Scott referenced Arkansas Code Annotated 14-269-203, which states in part, “The commissioners shall have the right to employ or remove managers, janitors and other employees of whatever nature …”

“Therefore, it is my opinion that this power lies with the entire commission, not just the personnel committee,” Hadden-Scott wrote.