Mayor fires animal control director

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth confirmed Friday that Brandon Southerland was dismissed Thursday as director of the Pine Bluff Animal Control Department.

Hollingsworth initially said the termination “was simply a matter that we wanted the animal control department moving in a different direction,” but in an e-mail Hollingsworth had dispatched to council members at 8:33 a.m. Friday she said the termination followed an internal audit by Gina Devers of the finance department.

The e-mail stated that Southerland was found to have failed in making “deposits on a weekly basis as instructed, … was not using numbered receipts for cash that is being received (while) using numbered receipts for vet services … and used revenue to make purchases.”

“I appreciate Mr. Southerland’s service to the city and certainly wish him nothing but the best,” Hollingsworth said. “No monies were missing, everything was accounted for and nothing was done for criminal charges to be filed. It was primarily a situation in which he wasn’t following procedure.”

The mayor said she would seek to avoid similar confusion by copying The Commercial in her future e-mails to council members. She said it was never her intention to conceal any information

“I’m learning as I go,” she said of her job. “I’ve had a lot on my plate and I honestly didn’t think about anything but communicating with the council members and trying to be sensitive and kind to Mr. Southerland in the process of discussing his firing with The Commercial.”

Southerland was not available for comment. He can appeal his firing to the City Council, according to a city spokesperson.

Southerland was appointed to the post just over a year ago by then-Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.

Southerland, who was with the department for eight years, served five years as operations supervisor before being promoted to director. Southerland replaced DeLoyd Cleveland, who retired as director in 2011. Brenda Davis-Jones, fired by Hollingsworth as police chief on Jan. 1, the mayor’s first day in office, originally assumed Cleveland’s post when Redus proposed merging the two departments.

The merger was rejected by the City Council, and Ted Davis — then Redus’ administrative aide — oversaw animal control until Southerland’s appointment.