REDFIELD – Harmon Carter, longtime municipal street superintendent, was fired Thursday morning by Mayor Tony Lawhon at City Hall. Carter told The Progress he had no immediate plans to appeal the dismissal.
Lawhon stated that he had decided to “go a different direction” with the street department and Carter “did not fit into the vision for his department.”
Lawhon won a recall referendum Nov. 6 and Harmon Christopher “Chris” Carter said his father was blamed by Lawhon for the recall effort. “My decision had nothing to do with the recall petition,” the mayor said.
The younger Carter said he started the recall effort earlier this year while his father, who had nothing to do with the campaign, was on vacation.
Carter and Lawhon have had their differences in the past. Carter was suspended indefinitely without pay Jan. 4 by the mayor for insubordination based on comments Carter made about the 2012 city budget at the Jan. 3 city council meeting, according to city records.
Aldermen Brenda Carmical, Barbara Werner, Danny Dial and John Jones later voted to reduce the suspension following a two-hour executive session behind closed doors. Aldermen Sandra Garrett and Darrell Hedden opposed the reduction.
In a letter dated Jan. 11 from Lawhon to Carter, the suspension was reduced and Carter was instructed to return to work the following Monday. Carter acknowledged he did not return to work on that date and instead took a week of paid vacation leave.
Lawhon’s Jan. 11 letter to Carter noted “that this is the second time you have been suspended without pay within 3 years. This is the last disciplinary action. Any further breach of conduct or insubordination will result in permanent termination.”
Lawhon has described Carter’s personal use of his city-owned cell phone as “excessive” and said Carter had also failed to follow his directives on completing a number of city projects during the past year. Carter countered the projects were not finished on the initial schedule because of heavy rains, but were completed when weather cleared.
The council “condemned” Carter on Oct. 6, 2009, for driving a Redfield man to Pine Bluff in a city-owned truck, calling the action a “firing offense.” Carter contended he was following the orders of the late Mayor George Sanders.
Carter said he was employed by the municipality for 22 years and does not have a pension.