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Embattled Texarkana Arkansas City Board Members Speak Out on Recall Efforts [OPINION]

Facebook –  (l to r standing) Laney Harris, Londell Williams, Mike Jones, and Chad Dowd (l to r sitting) Ruth Penney Davis, Mayor Smith, and Sue Johnson

The four members of the Texarkana Arkansas City Board that have been targeted by supporters of Mayor Smith for recall efforts have finally released a combined response to all of the mess in City Hall.

In a letter submitted to local media, and posted at the Facebook Page – Citizens Who Care – Texarkana AR. this is the response of the members that voted re-hire Harold Boldt,

In 2007 the Texarkana, Ark., city board developed a plan to continue top of the line public safety, improve streets and most importantly, grow. This vision started with Mayor Horace Shipp. Charles Nickerson and Harold Boldt were charged with developing a game plan that had never been performed before, so we were operating under a learning curve. Sure we have had disappointments along the way such as Minton’s Sportsplex and a convention center that was originally planned for the Crossroads Business Park but the developer moved it to Texarkana, Texas. Our financial resources were so limited that we had to be creative. The board developed a plan to dedicate money in the Texarkana, Ark., Water Utilities infrastructure. We were anxious for the first development to occur because we were confident once the door was opened additional development would follow. All you need to do is drive through the business park to see we were correct. Since development started, businesses and individuals have invested approximately 80 million dollars. The city possibly paid too much for some land, but other land has sold for much more than what the city paid. The important fact to remember is ALL purchases related to the Crossroads Business Park were approved by the Texarkana, Ark., city board. This includes the $545,000 from the Texarkana, Ark., infrastructure account that has been so frequently discussed. This fact seems to be omitted whenever reports are published in the newspaper. We were unable to locate a municipal-owned convention center in the USA that is breaking even financially.

The mayor is elected by members of all city wards, and the six wards elect their representative. A ward board member supports their ward, but they must consider what is best for the overall city. If a board member only voted for development in his or her ward, then the city would never prosper and grow. Imagine being charged with the responsibility of making everyone in your ward happy. It is not uncommon for one group to support an issue when another group is against it. This is called governing, and each board member has to make a decision. We depend on the city staff to be our gatekeepers because most board members work full-time jobs. In Texarkana, Ark., the city manager form of government was long ago adopted. The board and mayor offer support to the city manager, but we should not become involved in the day to day operations of the city departments. We must not undermine the city manager or acting city manager by instructing department heads on how to operate their departments. Can you imagine having two bosses to report to?

Many stories have been printed in the newspaper and hopefully they are well intended, but unfortunately many times the facts have been inaccurate. We hope reporters relate the information accurately, but all the factual information about the last few weeks has not been told. This letter, which is allowed limited space, is an attempt to relate some of the most important facts that have not been revealed.

1. A vote has never been taken by the Texarkana, Ark., city board to terminate Mr. Boldt. (It has been frequently reported in the newspaper that the board terminated Mr. Boldt and then rehired him.)

2. The decision to force Mr. Boldt to leave was made prior to the board meeting on the fateful night.

3. The verbal exchange between Mr. Boldt and the citizen had nothing to do with the forced departure of Mr. Boldt. That topic never came up (not even once) in executive session on the night he was forced out. It has frequently been reported in the newspaper that after the verbal exchange the board immediately took Mr. Boldt into executive session and terminated him. This is totally not true!

4. When the board adjourned into executive session that night, the mayor’s first words were “I have four votes to get rid of Harold.” There was never a vote taken during the executive session or in open session to terminate Mr. Boldt.

5. In retrospect, we should have demanded a public vote be taken when the mayor announced he had the votes to get rid of Mr. Boldt. We were so shocked that we failed to verify a majority of the board did not support Mr. Boldt.

6. After a brief discussion between the mayor and some board members, Mr. Boldt was asked to come into the executive session and was told by the mayor the majority of the board did not have confidence in him. The mayor offered Mr. Boldt $48,000 to leave his position immediately. A vote was never taken to terminate Mr. Boldt.

7. Mr. Boldt later retained legal counsel and requested $162,000 for his departure. His employment agreement stated if he is terminated without cause that he is entitled to a year’s salary.

8. During an executive session after Mr. Boldt’s settlement request, the mayor encouraged the board to approve the settlement agreement to avoid a lawsuit against the city. A public vote was taken by the board and the settlement was approved.

9. After city manager applications were taken, it was obvious the most qualified candidate was Mr. Boldt.

10. Mr. Boldt was also cleared of a citizen complaint by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. The 2012 city financial audit did not list any significant recommendations, and it was approved by the city board.

11. During a later executive session, a motive was made to re-hire Mr. Boldt and this was met by verbal insults from one person that were directed at several board members. Some board members were called cowards and serious accusations were made. One board member was asked to step into the alley and settle this. Some comments cannot be printed due to the fact this letter may be read by children.

12. We voted against the resolution submitted by the mayor to have Mr. Boldt return $162,000 in severance. Mr. Boldt has only been paid $79,500 at this time. Also and most important is the city attorney advised us not to vote on the resolution. Makes us wonder why anyone would vote for it.

Most members of the board have served for several years, and we don’t claim to possess the knowledge to have all the answers. This is a democracy and decisions are made by majority vote. Imagine the chaos if every time one or two people don’t get their way, threats, public insults and attempts to destroy a person’s reputation occur. Makes you wonder why a person would ever hold elected office. It is appropriate to voice your opinion, but it must be done in a respectable manner. All the snickering and finger pointing from the audience during board meetings is unnecessary and reflects poorly on our community. We appreciate the individuals who voiced their concerns in a civil manner. It is time for common sense to prevail, and let’s resolve this issue and move forward to have the best town in Arkansas.

Sales tax revenue and Advertising and Promotion taxes continue to grow and most of the growth is a result of the Crossroads Business Park. Remember through the years hearing people comment, “Are we ever going to have anything in the business park?” We urge you to take the time to drive through Crossroads Business Park, and if you like what you see then please help us continue with the vision developed by the Texarkana, Ark., city board. We ask everyone to slow down, take a breath, learn the truth, and if you approve of what has been accomplished, help us survive the attack on Texarkana, Ark., and do not sign a recall petition. If you don’t agree with the direction we are heading then vote us out at the next election but please ask that all parties stop these personal attacks. We have served you honorably and truthfully but we can’t please everybody. We wish we could!

It’s not a matter of winning or losing, but doing what’s best for Texarkana, Ark.

Respectfully yours,

Laney Harris
Director, Ward 2

Londell Williams
Director, Ward 3

Mike Jones
Director, Ward 4

Sue Johnson
Director, Ward 6

 

(First it is important to say I am not a resident of Texarkana Arkansas, so neither my vote or opinion are worth a dime. I live in Texas, and work in Arkansas. All of the directors and the mayor have always been friendly and nice to me. I’ve met most all involved and though we aren’t personal friends, I think they are all decent people that truly love the town. I do not have any dogs in the fight, it’s just that this is local news, and sometimes in this job that’s what we have to do, is report news… but this part is just my thoughts on it.

In my opinion only…Neither side of this argument can do any good for the City of Texarkana Arkansas with all of this back and forth. The silliness that has taken place on social networks like Facebook, and Twitter. Citizens on both sides of the political mess are very passionate about their fight and things have gotten fairly extreme at times, and silly at others.

It’s time to put aside egos, and personal feelings and do what is best for the people that these individuals chose to serve, and the people that have put faith and trust in them to represent them and do what is best for the city. Not long ago, people could not stop talking about how all of the hard work  to grow the Arkansas side of the line was finally beginning to take place, and now all of this has come up. Pretty soon people will start canvassing areas of the city for signatures to re-call these board members, I do have respect for these directors wanting to rise above the nastiness of airing the dirty laundry in public, but I am glad they have finally released a little bit of what has been going on behind the scenes at City Hall for the public to be able to hear both sides of the argument.)

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