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RCC has illegal executive session at meeting

By Staff, 01/15/19 10:41 AM

ROSSTON –  Rosston’s new mayor and city council got off to an inauspicious start.

First, a special meeting of the council was called earlier this month without the media being notified.

At the January council meeting Monday night, an illegal executive session was called, allegedly to discuss a personnel matter. However, the city only has one non-elected employee, the water operator, who’s only been on the job since the first of the year. Mayor Sam Quarles called for the session and ushered out the public. However, he allowed Dana Fincher, interim city recorder/treasurer, Jim Cross, director of the Nevada County Office of Emergency Management, and Justice of the Peace Herbert Coleman, who doesn’t live in Rosston, to remain with the council saying he could “appoint” who could stay during the session.

Under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, the only reason an executive session can be held is to discuss the hiring, firing, promotion or demotion of an employee, and only the mayor and members of the council are allowed to be present for the discussion. The session lasted about 45 minutes and, at times, was loud enough to be easily heard outside through the cinderblock walls of the Rosston City Hall.

Eventually, the council approved new salaries for the Mayor, city clerk/treasurer, water operator and council.

The meeting began with Quarles telling the panel the city is still in transition from the previous administration and is having problems with the payroll system. The first order of business was accepting the resignation of Chris Blake from the council, followed by the appointment of LeAnne Gray, who was sworn in by Coleman.

He said Ty Green has been named the city’s water operator and fire chief, but Green hasn’t been certified so Tim Woods has been contracted to train Green. Woods is getting paid roughly $560 per month, while Green is earning $1,000 a month. It was also pointed out that Green isn’t certified to be a fire chief, which led to Dustin Cross being named to this position.

Discussions during the meeting went in circles, going off into unrelated areas until someone would remember what they were originally talking about and got back on topic. The main topic of discussion that went awry concerned payroll and the proposed changes, which Quarles said would save the city money.

He said by utilizing existing personnel, and creating the position of water clerk, the city could see savings and money wouldn’t be paid out to others on a monthly basis to do this job. Quarles told the council the credit card former Mayor Lewis Jackson had was cancelled and he had to use his personal card to register for training for himself and Fincher, along with paying for their hotel rooms, and would ask the council to reimburse him for these expenses.

Jackson, in a phone call Tuesday morning, said he cancelled the card as it was in his name for the city and was only used for city business. Quarles promised to do no business without the council’s knowledge.

At one point during the salary discussion, it was said Jackson was apparently “double-dipping” as his salary was coming out of the general and operation budget, and he was also getting paid mileage. Jackson’s salary was $1,000 a month and did come out of the two funds, but the former council suggested he be paid mileage due to the amount of driving he was doing on the city’s behalf for water projects.

Eventually the salary schedule was decided with the mayor to get $1,000 a month, with the pay coming out of the general and operation budgets; the council’s pay to be increased from $60 to $70 per month; the salary for the city clerk/treasure to be $950 per month; the fire chief to be paid $85 monthly; the water operator to get $1,000 a month until he’s certified, at which time a pay increase will be discussed; and the water clerk to be paid at $300 a month.

Quarles said he will be setting up training sessions for the council as well later on, saying it needs to be trained as well, and plans to discuss the city’s water ordinance at the February meeting. He told the council he’s looking into installing a communication’s system to notify people when there’s a water problem or boil order.

Cross spoke up and said this is already available through Civic Ready and wouldn’t cost the city anything.