The Pine Bluff Advertising & Tourist Promotion Commission voted Friday to contract with tax compliance auditor George Stepps as a compliance agent. Commissioners William Moss, Alderman Glen Brown Jr., Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Wanda Bateman voted to approve this motion.


This move follows a Sept. 28 meeting when commissioners approved this same motion. They rescinded it at an Oct. 5 meeting and then issued a request for qualifications seeking a tax auditor. At the Oct. 5 meeting, Commission Chairman Moss said he had not previously known about a 2009 law that requires the commission to request professional qualifications before the commission awards a contract based upon an evaluation of qualifications and other relevant criteria excluding price or cost.


Stepps was the only person to submit a resume to the request for qualifications. Stepps exceeded the minimum requirements. The A&P Commission oversees funds collected by the A&P tax — commonly known as the hamburger tax — which is 2 percent on prepared foods and 3 percent on hotel stays in Pine Bluff.


Stepps earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Arkansas AM&N in 1969, served in the Vietnam War with the United States Army as a supply unit clerk in 1970 and 1971, worked for the Arkansas Department of Finance from 1971 to 2009 as a tax auditor, tax audit supervisor and district manager. Stepps has been a self-employed tax preparer and consultant since 2009 and maintains an office in downtown Pine Bluff, according to his resume.


Commissioners did not discuss compensation rates regarding Stepps. Moss prepared an evaluation scoring grid in anticipation of judging multiple candidates and assigning a numerical value based on their meeting minimum qualifications and their number of years of experience in specified fields.


In other news, Moss appointed University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff public information program director Tisha Arnold to the marketing committee. The marketing committee includes Lenore Shoults, the curator at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas and a former publicity and promotions employee for the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, and chiropractor Glen Brown Jr.


Moss said that the commission’s bylaws establishes a marketing committee and that the marketing committee members are not required to be a member of the commission. Commissioners are appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. Neither commissioners nor committee members are paid for their service.


Prior to the meeting Arkansas Municipal League Director of Legal Services Mark Hayes said that a commission chairman is permitted to appoint committee members.


“You are dealing with a local issue, not a state statute issue,” Hayes said.