Council panel won’t support proposed suspension

The Pine Bluff City Council’s Administration Committee in a Thursday meeting voted not to support a proposed two-day suspension without pay of George Hunt, a code inspector in the inspection and zoning department.

Alderman George Stepps, who chairs the panel, and member Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. voted to uphold Hunt’s appeal of the suspension proposed by department Director Robert Tucker and Chief Inspector Mitzi Ruth. The remaining committee member, Alderman Wayne Easterly, was absent. The committee will forward the appeal to the full council with a recommendation that the suspension be rejected.

The suggested discipline followed a July 12 incident in which Ruth found that Hunt was at his residence during a work day while not on a lunch break. Tucker and Ruth told the commission that Hunt had received three other warnings for unfavorable conduct. But Stepps questioned the validity of some joint “verbal/written” disciplinary forms on Hunt as items to be added to the employee’s permanent file. Holcomb expressed the same doubt.

Pine Bluff Human Resources Director Vickie Conaway had agreed with Tucker’s and Ruth’s assessment that Hunt should be suspended for his latest infraction.

“We supported the employee in this case because we had a case in which there was a lack of documentation,” Stepps said afterward, also noting that the city must take care to properly follow established hiring and firing procedures in order to avoid possible legal challenges.