Angela Parker, the embattled director of Pine Bluff’s Parks and Recreation Department, was fired Monday by the agency’s commission.
Parker’s termination was endorsed in a pair of commission votes, which followed a 36-minute executive session. A second vote was taken after an initial vote resulted in a 3-2 decision. Joining Chairwoman Kami Hunt in favoring Parker’s dismissal were Chris Blunt and Jeff Pulliam. Duke Fakouri and Roy Tolson were in opposition, and Carson Fields abstained.
Hunt announced that Parker had been terminated, but controversy ensued when senior Alderman Bill Brumett, who attended the meeting, advised Hunt that Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers had said a majority five votes of the full nine-member commission were necessary for the action. Commissioners Jonathan Frazier and Krandon Henry soon arrived, about 70 minutes after the meeting’s noon start.
With Commissioner Fabian Fontenot absent, the commissioners agreed to “retract” the first vote for a second count, in which Parker — who was to be eligible for retirement in 2017 — was fired by a 6-2 margin. Fields this time voted with the majority while Fakouri and Tolson maintained their resistance.
Hunt again declared Parker’s dismissal.
Parker, who had been present during both votes, immediately left the department’s Lake Saracen facility’s meeting room without comment. Reached by telephone a couple of hours later, Parker said she felt it was “best to be quiet” at that time.
Moments after the meeting, Hunt said Parker’s firing had resulted from the director’s “failure to properly supervise employees and parks,” as Hunt said had been reflected in Parker’s recent performance review.
“She has not met expectations,” Hunt said of Parker.
The commission’s personnel committee recommended Parker’s termination to the full panel on Dec. 27, 2012. Two weeks later, the commission decided to reinstate Parker but placed her on extended probation.
Monday’s motion for Parker’s dismissal included a direction that an interim director be appointed as soon as possible. Meanwhile, commissioners assigned Office Manager Melissa McHan to take charge of formulating the department’s proposed 2014 financial budget for delivery to Finance Manager Steve Miller.
In other business, the commission heard an appeal from Joseph Neese on his suspension from department-overseen softball competition at Townsend Park. Neese was originally given a one-game suspension after being accused of misconduct toward an umpire. Several days afterward, his ban was extended after he and Keith Taylor — the department’s director of operations at Townsend — had an additional disagreement.
The commission advised Neese that he would need to take his appeal to a league committee for a decision.
Laura Stewart, a softball player, complained to commissioners about Taylor’s behavior, which she said included “bad language” and a confrontational attitude.
“I won’t take my children out there,” Stewart said when describing Taylor’s conduct at the park.
Stewart related a recent incident in which she said Taylor telephoned police and reported he was being threatened by a man at the park. Actually, Stewart said, no one had made any threats against Taylor, but Taylor overreacted when discovering someone was circulating a petition against him.
Stewart said a number of individuals and teams have decided they’ll go elsewhere or simply not play next year if Taylor returns.
James Hunt — Kami Hunt’s husband — defended Taylor, saying there had been numerous woes in the Townsend Park program under former Director U.S. Grant, but current complaints now “only become a problem when you lose.”
Stewart countered that such is not the case with her or her team. She said her team is among the league’s leaders.
Kami Hunt, who has also been involved in softball competition, led an earlier, successful effort to have Grant replaced.
Fakouri promised Stewart that changes are forthcoming and conditions within the program will be improving.