Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington issued a veto after the City Council voted Monday night to restore funding for a purchasing manager position for the city.
Washington had cut the slot from the 2018 budget, but the council voted to restore it at their Monday meeting.
A news release from the mayor’s office said that she will give her reason for the veto at the next council meeting. Monday night, Washington said the council’s move to restore the funding was premature.
“It’s imperative for a city this size to have a purchasing a purchasing manager,” said Alderman Bruce Lockett, who led the debate and cited two items on the Monday agenda as reasons the position was needed.
One of those was a proposed ordinance, read for the second time, that would waive competitive bidding and allow the city to contract with a Pine Bluff company to study the city’s land line expenses with AT&T with an eye to saving m0ney; the second was a proposed ordinance, read for the first time, that would give local businesses an advantage in doing business with the city.
The 2017 city budget set a salary of $80,847 for the purchasing manager position, plus benefits, for a total of more than $105,000. Expenses for the office were listed at another $44,750. That position, as well as that of the marketing and communications manager slot, were eliminated by Washington this year.
“We’re saying put it back in the budget,” Lockett said.
Washington told Lockett that since the 2018 budget had not been approved yet, the action was premature — a fact seconded by Alderman Glen Brown Jr.
“The budget is not complete yet,” Brown said, adding that the Ways and Means Committee, of which he is a member, could look at the proposal and see if they can find the money to fund the position.
“It is the will of five council members that you put it back on the budget,” Lockett said.
In addition to Lockett, the resolution was supported by Alderwoman Thelma Walker and aldermen Steven Mays, Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and Donald Hatchett.
“Show me where the money is going to come from,” said Alderman Bill Brumett, who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “You’ve brought forth something, and I haven’t seen where we can get the money. I don’t think we can do it, and I can’t support this.”
Alderman Win Trafford, who also opposed the resolution, said that if it is approved, it would be like saying, “We’re going to find the money.”
City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott suggested that the matter be sent back to committee, but Lockett and his supporters would have none of that, and Holcomb called for a vote, which went 5-3 in favor of the resolution.
After the vote, Lockett called for an executive session to discuss the mayor’s decision to eliminate the position, but Hadden-Scott said that such a session would be improper.
Citing the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, she said an executive session would be proper only if it dealt with the hiring, firing demotion or reassignment of a department head. And in this case, council members were talking about a position and not a department head.
“This was not any of those things,” Hadden-Scott said. “It was a reduction in force.”
Lockett disagreed, saying again that “We need a purchasing manager. At the end of the day, I will not approve a budget without a purchasing manager.”
Also on Monday, the council approved a $7,500 budget adjustment for the Parks Department to rebuild the outdoor deck at the John Fallis Waterfront building at Regional Park. That money will come from the five-eighths cent sales tax approved by city voters in 2011 for city improvements.