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Council holds illegal executive session

By Staff, 07/18/17 9:30 AM

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PRESCOTT – July’s meeting of the Prescott City Council, Monday night, was highlighted by an illegal executive session, which was condoned by City Attorney Glenn Vasser.

After the council finished with the agenda items, Councilman Bobbie Brown called for an executive session. When asked what the session was about, she replied it was about hiring procedures and practices. The council was informed the only legal reasons an executive session can be held is to discuss hiring, firing, promotion and demotion of an employee, and must involve discussion on a specific employee or employees.

The council looked to Vasser, who told them it would be all right if they went into executive session for the reason’s Brown mentioned. The audience was asked to leave the room.

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) states:

(24) When a public body is meeting in executive session to consider disciplining an employee, all discussion must be related to the legal purpose for which the session was called. Such discussion may properly delve into all circumstances surrounding the incident that gave rise to the question of discipline in the first place without contravening the FOIA. Once a decision has been made in executive session that discipline or other action is needed, all further acts of the public body should be public.

Commercial Printing Company et al. v. Rush,

261 Ark. 468, 549 S.W.2d 790 (1977).

There’s nothing in the law pertaining to holding executive sessions to discuss hiring practices or procedures. Once the session ended, the council stated no action had been taken.

The meeting began with the council approving the purchase of a floating brush aerator for the second sewer pond. Perry Nelson, superintendent of the Water and Sewer Department, said it will be for a 16-acre sewer pond at the plant.

Currently, he told the panel, a motorboat is being used to stir the pond to keep the algae down and reduce the smell. The aerator will constantly stir the pond, reducing the algae content and keeping it from smelling. Nelson pointed out the first sewer pond has two such aerators and they have helped with algae and smell reduction. He added the contents of the first pond are dumped into the second pond.

The council was told the new model of aerator will be made of stainless steel and should last for several years, but will require routine maintenance. He was asked if this was a budgeted item and said it wasn’t, but would be paid for through the department’s depreciation fund. He added the city would get a three-month trial period to make sure it does the job required, telling the council this aerator comes with a 15 hp motor.

Nelson said the current method poses a safety issue as the boat operator works alone and often has to work weekends during the summer months to help slow the growth of algae.

The council also voted to allow the Nevada County Library to apply for a grant for a security system.

Teresa Tyree, the librarian, said the system will help secure the library’s wi-fi as it’s on during the evenings, and will also help the Prescott Police Department as there will be video cameras on the outside of the library. The video system would be connected to the PPD as well as to the company. She added the company will also monitor the system as well.

The grant, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, would be for $4,000, while the library would be required to pick up the rest of the cost at $4,320.

Tyree said this is the same system the Hope library has and she was unable to find anything less expensive. She added the county has not been asked to contribute to this project.

The council approved a second School Resource Officer for the Prescott School District. The city and PSD entered an interlocal agreement whereby each party will pay $15,000 for salary and benefits to the officer.

The council was informed this would be the same deal currently in place between the city and school district. It was suggested the second officer be male as the current SRO is female, as this would allow full coverage of the entire campus. Patricia Roberts and Tommy Poole recused themselves from the vote as both are school employees.

Robert Poole, superintendent of the PSD, thanked the council for its decision, saying the PSD does all it can to keep the children safe and this is a huge step in that direction.

The final order of business was to name Brown to the city’s electric negotiating committee as the council’s representative.

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