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The Pine Bluff Parks Commission’s Personnel Committee Thursday fired Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker and Community Centers Director Laura Hildreth in a decision that left a number of questions unresolved.

Why were so many left with the feeling that the personnel action was discussed outside of the 90 minute executive session? The two commissioners present had to be reminded by a Commercial reporter that any decision taken behind closed doors must be voted on in public.

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act has only been the law since 1967.

Parker and Hildreth were fired in a unanimous decision, but were given the option of resigning or be fired. The committee’s decision can be appealed to the full commission within five days.

Parker vowed not to resign and indicated she may challenge the firing in court.

Committee members Christ Blunt and Jeff Pulliam, with Commissioner Kami Hunt listening by telephone, were questioned before explaining their decisions. The explanations should have been included in the public motion on the terminations.

Blunt and Pulliam said Hildreth’s dismissal was based on her role in a $117,000 departmental budget shortfall, while Parker was fired based in part on her “mismanagement” of Hildreth, Blunt and Pulliam stated. Both were suspended with pay on Dec. 11.

Blunt and Pulliam agreed, too, that Parker should be replaced because she “does not possess the skills set” they and other commissioners believe are needed for the department’s future success. Hildreth did not attend the meeting.

Commissioners need to review FOIA and human resources rules.

Gift of caring

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We remain impressed every year by the generosity of so many people at Christmas.

Hope Jett calls the holiday her favorite work assignment at White Hall Nursing and Rehab Center. She has worked every Christmas except one in the decade since she became a licensed practical nurse.

She prefers working with patients who are generally 80 or older, taking note that many don’t have family who visit them on a regular basis. The latter is normal for nursing homes, with many peers long gone and family scattered across the country.

Jett takes time to listen to their memories or talk about something that might be weighing on their minds.

Caring is a powerful thing to share.

Members of the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club understand the type of caring Jett talks about. Each year the civic club arranges on Christmas Eve for Santa Claus to bring cheer to young patients in the pediatric unit at Jefferson Regional Medical Center and children who are staying with their mothers at the CASA shelter for battered women.

The Rotarians take time away from home, family and friends to bring joy to children who probably suspected Santa would overlook them in a strange environment.

The smiles and laughter become great memories for the men and women who accompany Santa on his stops. Like Hope Jett, they understand extending a hand of compassion to someone who may feel alone on a day when no one should be alone.

Sharing at Christmas is part of the reason for the season.

Population gains

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As the nation prepares to begin a new year, the U.S. Census Bureau has projected that on Tuesday the total United States population will be 315,091,138.

This represents an increase of 2,272,462, or 0.73 percent, from New Year’s Day 2012 and an increase of 6,343,630, or 2.05 percent, since the most recent census count on April 1, 2010.

In January one birth is expected to occur every eight seconds in the United States and one death every 12 seconds, the bureau projected.