Coun­cil to sched­ule meet­ing with civil ser­vice com­mis­sion

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Tia Lyons Staff Writer

Mem­bers of the El Do­rado City Coun­cil took no ac­tion Thurs­day on a rec­om­men­da­tion by Mayor Frank Hash to re­voke a city or­di­nance that grants a city com­mis­sion au­thor­ity to hire and re­move the po­lice and fire chiefs.

In­stead, coun­cil mem­bers agreed to sched­ule a meet­ing with the El Do­rado Civil Ser­vice Com­mis­sion to gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the scope of the com­mis­sion’s du­ties.

City of­fi­cials also agreed that Mayor-elect Veron­ica Smith-Creer and newly elected Coun­cil Mem­ber Paul Choate should be in on the dis­cus­sions.

“The sooner the bet­ter,” said ECSC Chair­man Toddy Pi­tard as coun­cil mem­bers con­sid­ered a date for the meet­ing.

Hash pro­posed the re­vo­ca­tion of city Or­di­nance 1519, which was based on a Arkansas Act 534 of 1995, and gave may­ors the power to ap­point and re­move city depart­ment heads.

Act 534 also al­lows city coun­cils to del­e­gate to civil ser­vice com­mis­sions the au­thor­ity to ap­point and re­move po­lice and fire chiefs.

In 1995, the El Do­rado

City Coun­cil chose the lat­ter op­tion and adopted an or­di­nance to that ef­fect. The or­di­nance was signed by then-Mayor Mike Du­mas.

City At­tor­ney Henry Kinslow ex­plained Thurs­day that Act 534 was a re­sult of a lobby to the state leg­is­la­ture by the city of Pine Bluff.

“Un­less the city coun­cil passed an or­di­nance like we did, the mayor would

have au­thor­ity over the chiefs,” Kinslow said.

Hash said that though the au­thor­ity to the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion is al­low­able by law, he has dis­cussed the mat­ter with var­i­ous city of­fi­cials around the state and has found that the prac­tice is un­com­mon in some other ci­ties, in­clud­ing those in the Golden Tri­an­gle.

“In Mag­no­lia and Cam­den, that power is still un­der the city coun­cil and mayor … You still need coun­cil ap­proval to fire or hire the po­lice or fire chief,” Hash said.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Mike Rice, a for­mer law en­force­ment of­fi­cer, sharply ob­jected to strip­ping hir­ing-fir­ing power from the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion.

“Why right now, just be­fore Mrs. Creer is com­ing into of­fice? Does it have to be done right now?” Rice asked.

Rice said the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion is needed as a buf­fer be­tween city of­fi­cials and po­lice and fire depart­ment heads.

He cited po­ten­tial li­a­bil­ity is­sues, say­ing part of the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion’s role is to pro­tect the po­lice and fire chiefs.

Fur­ther, he said per­son­al­ity or po­lit­i­cal con­flicts be­tween a city of­fi­cial and a po­lice or fire chief could put the re­spec­tive chief at risk of los­ing re­tire­ment ben­e­fits if he or she is abruptly fired.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Wil­lie McGhee agreed, adding, “It’s so there’s no

po­lit­i­cal foot­ball with the po­lice and the fire de­part­ments. We still have in­put, though.”

Hash said the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion is re­spon­si­ble for ad­min­is­ter­ing an­nual civil ser­vice ex­ams and over­see­ing poli­cies for each depart­ment.

“You don’t have to do it at all. I was try­ing to make it con­sis­tent with our sis­ter ci­ties, but if it’s go­ing to raise blood pres­sures, we can just drop it,” the mayor said. “Strike it from the record, please.”

Later, McGhee broached the is­sue again and sug­gested that the coun­cil meet with civil ser­vice com­mis­sion­ers.

“Maybe we can meet as a body and dis­cuss any con­cerns, ques­tions and sug­ges­tions. Be­fore we dis­band some­thing, I’d like to have a dis­cus­sion,” McGhee said.

Hash re­it­er­ated that his rec­om­men­da­tion pur­posed con­sis­tency with other ci­ties.

“This in no way im­pugns the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion,” he said, adding that the mat­ter should be re­vis­ited af­ter the first of the year when Creer and Choate are sworn into of­fice.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Vance Wil­liamson in­sisted that the coun­cil go ahead and meet with the civil ser­vice com­mis­sion be­fore the end of 2018 and in­vite Creer and Choate, “so we all can be on the same page.”

Sev­eral com­mis­sion­ers who were in the au­di­ence agreed.

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