Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Department Community Centers Director Laura Hildreth, suspended five days with pay last week, was fired Monday afternoon.
Six of the nine parks and recreation commissioners — Chris Blunt, Duke Fakouri, Fabian Fontenot, Jonathan Frazier, Jeff Pulliam and Roy Tolson — voted for Hildreth’s dismissal on grounds of “ineffective management.” Commissioners Carson Fields and Krandon Henry abstained, and panel chairwoman Kami Hunt was absent.
After a 34-minute executive session in which Hildreth was beckoned for input, Tolson motioned for and Fakouri seconded the termination vote. Pulliam. who directed the meeting, stated — with supporting comments from Fakouri — that the mismanagement allegation concerned “daily business decisions” at both the Merrill and Chester Hynes community centers, and a recent disappearance of theater costumes at Hynes. The costumes were owned and used in a play there by Brandon Smith, who values the pieces at $700.
In its meeting last week, the commission’s personnel committee — in addition to approving Hildreth’s suspension — instructed Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker to have new locks installed at Hynes. Pulliam, the committee’s chairman, said the step was not directly related to the missing costumes, but rather “a security issue” involving several contractors who acquired keys to the building.
Under current department guidelines, Hildreth can appeal her firing to the commission within five days. The commission’s decision is to be delivered within 30 days. To contest that decision, Hildreth would have to file suit in circuit court.
Hildreth left Monday meeting’s without comment after the commission’s action against her.
After a department shortfall of over $100,000, the commission suspended and then fired Hildreth and Parker late last year. But in January, the panel voted to reinstate the pair while placing them on probation for at least nine months.