Mayor says little in response to city attorney’s allegation

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth had little comment Thursday about allegations made by city attorney Althea Hadden-Scott.

In a guest column published Thursday in The Commercial, Hadden-Scott wrote that the mayor lied when she told the city council’s administration committee and then the full council last week that Hadden-Scott had advised that the hiring of Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks was in accordance with city law but then changed her opinion after Hubanks’ appointment.

“I stand by my statements concerning this issue, and I think that’s pretty much all I need to say about it,” the mayor said Thursday. “I’ve prayed about it and asked for God’s wisdom in doing what would be best for everyone. I think the public is growing tired of the ongoing controversy and I see no merit in adding to it.

“I’ve got plenty to do with the job to which I was elected,” she added. “And I believe that’s what the vast majority of citizens want my focus to be. I’m hopeful that there will soon be a solution to this residency requirement situation and we all can move forward together.”

The disagreement is based on a 2000 ordinance that mandates that all city department heads reside here. Hollingsworth believes that in the case of Hubanks — a retired PBPD lieutenant who lives in Cleveland County — the measure was superseded by a relaxed 2002 ordinance focusing solely on uniformed police officers. Council members are in agreement that the 2000 ordinance has not been consistently enforced since its inception, but several are insisting that the restriction now be imposed, at least upon the police and fire chiefs.

Arkansas Municipal League Attorney Mark Hayes urged aldermen during a called March 22 city council meeting to repeal conflicting legislation and create new guidance. The council then approved giving a second reading to a proposed ordinance calling for abolishing current regulations in favor of a residency restriction broadened to statewide with a condition that the employees be able to report to work in a “timely fashion.”

But a motion for a third and final reading was nixed, so the bill could be neither discussed nor voted upon.

The measure — sponsored by Alderman Bill Brumett — is on the agenda for a third reading at Monday night’s regular council session.