Dark drama in Cave Springs
I’ve exercised an impressive level of darn-near superhuman willpower to refrain from commenting on all the Tontitown-like turmoil unfolding in little Cave Springs. Yet, alas, valued readers, today I’ve have failed after finally enjoying all the darkened drama I could stand without offering a thought.
I lost track last week of just who’s suing whom in the community that stands squarely between the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and the I-49 urban corridor I like to call Ozarkopolis. It won’t surprise me if the berg’s name is changed to Cavedin Springs.
First we watched the town’s recorder-treasurer, Kimberly Hutcheson, file a federal suit against Mayor Travis Lee, and six current and two former city council members. She’s alleging a multitude of official misfeasance.
The allegations include that neither Lee nor council members would provide her with a suitable job description for the position merged from two in 2015, or allow her to perform her job.
One allegation is that Lee basically eliminated her position by vetoing her council-approved job description. She also lost access to the computer needed to fulfill her job.
Like sands through the hourglass so lately have gone the days of those folks’ lives.
Meanwhile, soon afterwards former policeman and planning assistant Nathan Coy along with office employee Jacki Hawkins filed a suit of their own in circuit court alleging that Hutcheson and five of the six aldermen had retaliated against them for supporting the mayor.
The mayor has asked the Benton County prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into Hutcheson’s actions.
The full extent of this soap opera seem to me to involve allegiances either to or against hiz honor. In either case, Mayor Lee finds himself standing at the eye of this storm.
At the risk of telling you way more than you want to know, here’s a rapid-fire sampling of what I call the Cave Springs Carnival as it’s unfolded. Buckle up. Try your best to hold your nose and stay with it.
A news account by reporter Tracy Neal says the city council adopted a resolution to fire 10 city employees in early January. Those dismissed included Hawkins, who’d once worked for Hutcheson, and the medically disabled Coy. But the mayor up and vetoed that resolution the next day. The lawsuit claims Lee fired Coy on Jan. 30 in a compromise with the council, but Coy was protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act at the time.
The Coy-Hawkins lawsuit claims they were targeted for supporting the mayor. Coy also says Hutcheson created or administrated the Facebook account “Informed Residents of Cave Springs,” where she allegedly commented in public postings on Coy’s Hispanic heritage and disability.
The lawsuit also claims Hutcheson repeatedly warned Hawkins under threat of termination to remain loyal to her. Hawkins and Coy reported Hutcheson to the mayor, and the council and Hutcheson removed Hawkins as deputy recorder-treasurer, the complaint says.
The lawsuit further claims that wages were withheld or paid slowly to city employees who were believed to be loyal to the mayor.
Worn out yet? I am, so that’s enough for now. Reasonable folks can only stomach so much turmoil whether it’s in Tumultuous Tontitown or Cave(d-in) Springs.
Addendum to SRJ8
Sometimes I run plum out of space in a column, which was pretty much the case in Sunday’s piece about the Senate Resolution SJR8. That’s the resolution passed by the Senate and now before the House.
It would allow voters to decide in 2018 whether to cap the amount injured parties in lawsuits could receive in non-economic benefits. I need to add that in the event of a death, say, in a nursing home, the cap could rise from $250,000 to $500,000 if there are legal beneficiaries involved such as children, a spouse, parents and siblings of the deceased.
Five hundred thousand is the total that would be split, whether there are one or 20 beneficiaries.
For me, this is yet another reason voters, if given the opportunity, should reject this resolution if it shows up as a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot. It’s crucial in the interest of fairness and justice that all evidence be heard in any relevant case with a decision made by local juries and not a one-size-fits-all approach established by our special-interest-influenced politicians.
It’s equally important to know that SJR8 applies to every kind of case from highway wrecks to rapes, and not only medical malpractice like the 2013 and 2015 failed proposals for so-called tort reform.
What’s an immigrant?
I keep seeing the term “immigrants” bandied about freely in much of today’s media. But I find myself wondering why there’s no differentiation between those who come here in a legal manner, like the more than 12 million immigrants who came legally through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 to became naturalized citizens and assimilate in our culture, and those who enter secretly or in flagrant violation of long-standing customs laws. What do you think? Is one more legitimately classified an “immigrant” than the other?