Interim Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks resides in Cleveland County. He is one of at least six city department heads currently residing outside the city, according to information obtained by a Commercial reporter from city records.
If five other municipal department heads don’t reside inside the corporate limits, the 2000 ordinance that states department directors, including the police and fire chiefs, may not serve unless they are city residents, the law obviously has not been enforced.
Why has it suddenly become a controversy with Hubanks’ appointment? He was named interim chief by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth shortly after she fired former Chief Brenda Davis-Jones on Jan. 1.
“Continued residency in the city during such term of such service shall be considered a condition of employment and failure to do so shall constitute grounds for termination,” the ordinance reads.
Should Hubanks be forced to comply with a residency requirement in a non-permanent appointment? If an interim chief must comply with the requirement, shouldn’t the other department heads that live elsewhere be required to establish residency within the city?
“We just need to determine in which direction we’re going to proceed,” noted Alderman George Stepps. “We need to determine if we’re going to enforce it or not. … I think it needs to be enforced on interim and permanent department heads. I haven’t looked at what other department heads will be involved, but we need to get this settled and get it done right.”
That would be a unique step for a divided city council that so far has not agreed on much with the start of the new year. Stepps, for example, noted that some of the other non-resident department administrators were hired by former Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. and he believes those appointed by Redus may not have been “informed” of the ordinance.
Alderman Bill Brumett believes the ordinance should be repealed, while a third member of council, Thelma Walker, urged “Let’s start enforcing our ordinances and stay on that track. It is what it is.”
Our council’s record of being consistently inconsistent is still intact.
Back to work
The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to reinstate Director Angela Parker and Community Centers Director Laura Hildreth, who had been recommended for termination by the panel’s personnel committee on Dec. 27.
The two have been on paid leave since Dec. 11.
“I’m happy to be back on the job,” Parker said after the commission’s vote at City Hall, saying she will return to work Monday.
“I’m relieved,” Hildreth said. “I’ll be back working with my kids again and that’s what I’m about.”
The large crowd that attended the commission meeting, which included a 56-minute executive session, applauded the decision, which included a probationary period of nine months to a year.
Parker had been disciplined for having “mismanaged” Hildreth in Hildreth’s “failed” oversight of the Chester Hynes After-School Enrichment Program, officials said.
A police investigation determined that some students’ participation fees for the program apparently were not collected and delivered to Parker, but no theft or misappropriation of funds occurred.
The program’s problems contributed to a budget shortfall of $117,000 for the department in 2012.
Personnel Committee Chairman Jeff Pulliam said Parker and Hildreth must meet and work to resolve differences so that “this will never happen again,” prompting collective cheers from the audience.
No mention was made on what steps will be taken to collect the uncollected program fees.