Parks commissioners question city panel’s actions

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s ears may have been burning during a Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The commission meeting came less than a week after the city council’s public works committee voted unanimously to recommend to the full council that the commission be given a nine-month “grace period” instead of being dissolved. Hollingsworth had publicly stated that she wanted parks and recreation to become a city department, making it accountable to the mayor and council rather than the commission.

Commission chairwoman Kami Hunt, who recently advised the mayor that she would be resigning effective Feb. 28, was displeased that she was not notified by Hollingsworth or anyone else of the Feb. 20 committee session. Alderman Steven Mays, chairman of the public works committee, attended Tuesday’s commission meeting and was questioned by Hunt on what the nine-month recommendation “was about.” Mays responded that it wasn’t his responsibility to advise Hunt of the committee gathering.

Hunt, who said that Hollingsworth should have been in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting,also said she is considering “rescinding” her resignation because of “recent developments.”

Commissioner Abel White noted that only three council members had participated in last week’s committee session and said he felt all council members should have been there if the panel felt the commission’s possible disbanding was important. Mays pointed out that council committees have only three members.

Hunt said she disagreed with comments made by the mayor at the committee meeting as reported by The Commercial, and added that a news story about the meeting was “incoherent.”

Hunt said that the mayor, who said that she wants the commission to ensure that parks and recreation employees are held accountable to a city workers’ handbook, should “outline differences” on worker guidance and report them to the commission. Hunt said there’s apparently “something missing” in the parks and recreation direction.

Upon Hunt’s request, Parks and Recreation Director Angela Parker agreed to provide commissioners with copies of employee evaluations. Hunt said she didn’t want the commission “to be accused again” of “not knowing what’s going on.”