The five-month dispute over residency requirements for city department heads may finally be resolved Monday night as a “compromise” ordinance on the matter is due for a third and final reading and likely vote at a Pine Bluff City Council meeting.
A series of disagreements on the subject of residency restrictions for department leaders began shortly after first-term Mayor Debe Hollingsworth fired former Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones and appointed Jeff Hubanks as interim chief shortly after the mayor was sworn in on Jan. 1. Hubanks resides in neighboring Cleveland County.
Repeated legislative efforts have faltered and the council has so far failed to heed the advice of an Arkansas Municipal League attorney who advised that the city could be facing litigation if existing, conflicting ordinances were not dissolved in favor of a new measure. Hollingsworth has stated that she will not commence a search for a permanent chief until the issue is resolved.
The latest ordinance, sponsored by Alderman Steven Mays, received its second reading at the council’s May 20 meeting. An effort to suspend the rules and advance the measure to a third reading so it could be voted upon was unsuccessful. Six nods are necessary for such action, and only Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown and George Stepps supported the call. Mays and Aldermen Bill Brumett and Wayne Easterly opposed it, and Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. was absent.
The ordinance received a do-pass recommendation from the council’s administration committee in a May 14 meeting.