City attorney says mayor has ‘total disregard for truth’

Pine Bluff City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott is accusing Mayor Debe Hollingsworth of having “a total disregard for the truth” after the first-term mayor said in a March 21 city council administration committee meeting that Hadden-Scott advised her that the hiring of Jeff Hubanks as interim police chief was in accordance with city law but then changed her opinion following Hubanks’ appointment.

Hadden-Scott’s account of the matter is included as a commentary on Page 6 of today’s edition. Hollingsworth was provided a copy of the commentary Wednesday afternoon, but declined comment.

“I need some time to absorb this,” said the mayor. “I need an opportunity to get my thoughts together before making a response.”

Hadden-Scott writes that Hollingsworth “never told me that she intended to hire Chief Hubanks.” Hadden-Scott said she learned of Hubanks’ Jan. 1 appointment at her parents’ home in Jacksonville, where she saw a report on the matter during a 5 p.m. television newscast.

“I was surprised that I wasn’t extended the simple courtesy of being apprised of her selection for interim chief, nor the swearing-in ceremony…,” Hadden-Scott wrote. “I had to learn of this on the evening news.”

Hadden-Scott further charges that Hollingsworth “never asked me any questions regarding the appointment of Chief Hubanks.”

The mayor said there were witnesses to their conversations.

“There were others (Administrative Assistant Evelyn Horton and Ben Trevino, Hollingsworth’s campaign director) present during our discussions on this matter,” Hollingsworth said. “But I want to reserve comment for the time being. I’ve got several meetings today and I need to prepare for those, and I’ve other business to attend to as well. All I can say right now is that I was unprepared for this.”

Hadden-Scott said that following Hubanks’ hiring, she received a telephone call from Alderwoman Thelma Walker, who advised that Hubanks resided outside of the city and his appointment was therefore in violation of a 2000 ordinance that requires all city department heads to live here. Hadden-Scott said she spoke to Arkansas Municipal League attorney Mark Hayes about the situation, and Hayes — who addressed the council in a special Friday meeting and urged it to chart a new course on residency requirements — told her to immediately notify Hollingsworth of the developments.

Hadden-Scott said she then related the details to Hollingsworth and told the mayor, Horton and Trevino that Hubanks’ appointment “was contrary” to city law. The mayor has maintained that the ordinance in question was superseded by a relaxed 2002 measure on uniformed police officers.

Hollingsworth hadn’t made an earlier claim that Hadden-Scott had changed her mind “because it is a lie,” the city attorney said.