Mays proposes new residency ordinance

The Pine Bluff City Council, which will meet in regular session Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the civic center, is looking at another opportunity to alter residency requirements for city department heads.

Alderman Steven Mays is sponsoring an ordinance that would require future administrators to reside within 12 miles of the city, while “grandfathering” current department heads.

The ordinance is slated for its first reading, but could be advanced to a vote if the council desires.

Disagreement over residency restrictions began shortly after Mayor Debe Hollingsworth fired former Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones and named PBPD retiree Jeff Hubanks interim chief on Jan. 1, Hollingsworth’s first day in office.

Opinions differ on which of two existing measures rule in the matter. Some council members feel a 2000 ordinance on all department heads trumps a relaxed 2002 ordinance dealing only with uniformed police department employees. Hollingsworth has maintained that the latter legislation overrides the previous ordinance in regard to Hubanks.

Mays’ measure calls for repealing the 2000 and 2002 standards.

It also defines “interim” as a position of “not to exceed one calendar year in duration” and states that the practice of excusing current department heads will be extended to those in interim status as well as permanent.

Hubanks’ Cleveland County residence is within the the proposed 12-mile limit.

Hollingsworth has said she will not initiate a national search for a permanent police chief until the council has reached accord on the residency issue.

“As I’ve said before, we need to get this behind us so we can move on to other matters,” she said Thursday. “I’ve already expressed my thoughts on more than one occasion, and don’t have anything more to add at this time.”

Hollingsworth has repeatedly said she thinks Hubanks would be a “strong candidate” for the permanent post.

Mays said he thinks his ordinance is a “good compromise” and would allow city leaders to “get on with other business.”

He believes the ordinance’s language lends itself to helping the morale of city employees by effectively ending the controversy without causing any “undue hardships” on present department leaders.

“We need to work together for a smooth operation here,” he said. “I think it’s important that we make working conditions for our city employees as good as we possibly can.”