Alderman George Stepps filed a complaint against Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth on Tuesday, asking Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter to determine if evidence warrants the first-term mayor being charged with “malfeasance, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance in office.”
Stepps said during Monday night’s city council meeting that his actions were based on Hollingsworth’s alleged failure to abide by a city ordinance mandating that city department heads — particularly Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks — reside within the city. Hubanks, appointed shortly after Hollingsworth took office on Jan. 1, presently lives in Cleveland County.
Hunter said he was not at liberty to provide The Commercial a copy of Stepps’ letter of explanation and attached documents outlining alleged evidence, but stated that the letter was signed by Stepps, Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Alderman Glen Brown.
Hollingsworth was apparently out of her office the entire day and did not return telephone calls.
Meanwhile, Stepps said in a telephone interview that his aim in the matter is that “We follow the law that’s on the books.” He said he decided to pursue Hollingsworth’s removal from office after she recently told The Commercial that she would veto a Stepps-proposed ordinance that called for requiring local residency for the police and fire chiefs while excusing other department administrators currently residing out-of-town. Hollingsworth actually said she would veto the measure if she was advised by an attorney that it might be unconstitutional and force the city into litigation.
“When she said she would veto it, I pulled my ordinance and that meant that at that point we had to go back to the original ordinance,” Stepps said.
Although he agreed that the old ordinance — approved in 2000 and in Hollingsworth’s opinion superseded by relaxed 2003 legislation concerning uniformed police officers — wasn’t always enforced for several years under former mayor Carl A. Redus Jr., he said, “the law is the law.”
Stepps said former Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones — terminated by Hollingsworth within a couple of hours after the mayor received her public oath of office — at one time asked permission of Redus and the council to move to a home outside the city, but was refused based on the 2000 ordinance.
“I don’t have a personal agenda against the mayor,” Stepps said. “I hope this can all be settled without any more problems, but I have to stand up for what’s right. There’s a law on the books, and if (Hubanks) loves the city like he says he does, he should respect the law. And (Hollingsworth) should, too.”
A copy of a letter provided by Stepps after the council meeting did not possess any signatures.
“I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to sign it,” Stepps said Tuesday. “So, I called all the aldermen this morning and gave them the chance.”
Stepps said that while Brown and Walker wished to add their signatures, Aldermen Bill Brumett, Wayne Easterly and Steven Mays declined. Stepps said Aldermen Charles Boyd and Lloyd Holcomb Jr. were not immediately available to express their intentions.
Hunter said he will “research the issue and respond at an appropriate time.” He said he doesn’t know when he’ll make a decision or be prepared to announce it.