Parks and recreation panel finds director to be at fault in shortfall, plans suspension or termination

The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission determined in an “emergency” meeting Monday night that Angela Parker, the agency’s director, was “negligent” in her management of the department’s summer program funds, resulting in a $117,000 budget shortfall.

After an executive session, Commissioner Jeff Pulliam said he and Commissioner Christopher Blunt — as members of the board’s personnel committee — made the determination along with Commissioner Carlson Fields. Commission Chairwoman Kami Hunt was participating by telephone when the others ended the executive session.

The directors were apparently going to interview three women, who entered the meeting room along with a Commercial reporter, after Hunt called for “my parents” to be introduced.

Pulliam said the women were going to comment on related matters, but the reporter intervened and told Pulliam that the first order of business after the executive session was a follow-up to what was discussed during the period. Pulliam indicated that he and Blunt had made the initial decision on Parker’s alleged mismanagement and a commissi0n vote followed. Commissioner Abel White apparently did not participate.

According to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, if a vote occurs on executive session considerations, it must be taken in public session.

The meeting was to have started at 7:30, according to Pulliam, but when a Commercial reporter arrived a few minutes earlier, the door to the parks and recreation office was locked. Pulliam, who advised of the meeting only two hours earlier, was asked how an executive session could have started before 7:30. He said the reporter had told him that he might not be able to make it to the meeting because of a previous assignment, so the meeting was commenced earlier.

Pulliam complied with the reporter’s request to state the purpose of the executive session, saying it was to determine whether Parker or department employee Laura Hildreth or both were at fault in the matter, which culminated with the layoff of several summer program workers. Pulliam also stated that a decision was to be made on terminating or suspending either Hildreth, Parker or both.

After disclosing the final determination, Pulliam said the commissioners had not decided which disciplinary action would occur, but it would be either suspension or termination.

Reached by phone, Parker declined comment.