The Pine Bluff Advertising & Tourist Promotion Commission reversed course on contracting with tax auditor George Stepps as a compliance agent and instead will issue a request for qualifications to find a tax auditor.

Commission Chairman William Moss apologized for calling the special meeting and for not knowing 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.

“I will note that we were not in violation of the ordinance because we had not entered into a contract with Mr. Stepps,” Moss said at the Oct. 5 meeting.

These developments come one week after Moss asked his fellow commissioners at a Sept. 27 meeting to contract with Stepps as a compliance agent at an amount not to exceed $25,000 and to have Stepps report to the commission each month regarding his results on tax audits. Fellow commissioners Alderman Glen Brown Jr., Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Wanda Bateman voted at the Sept. 27 meeting to approve this motion. Moss said Stepps worked for 40 years with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration as a sales tax auditor.

Moss credited former Pine Bluff alderman-turned-community activist Jack Foster for bringing this law to his attention. Brown wants to be fair in seeking a tax auditor.

“I think it is more or less the process of making sure that others have the opportunity to submit a bid,” Brown said.

Moss provided a copy of the law in question. It states that “the competitive selection for such services shall be conducted by a review committee which has been selected by the appropriate governing board, commission or authority as the case may be, which may include appropriate city personnel and professionals and/or individuals with community expertise based on the nature of the services to be selected. The review committee for the proposed contract may establish the qualifications and evaluation criteria necessary for the specific services to be provided.”

Moss acknowledged the Pine Bluff Commercial’s earlier request to see the contract with Stepps. Moss said the news media is permitted to receive a copy of a future contract with whomever is selected as the tax auditor. Moss asked for a motion to approve the publication of the request for qualifications in the Pine Bluff Commercial prior to Oct. 8. Brown, Walker, Bateman and Moss voted for the motion.

It states that the minimum qualifications for a person performing services have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting, or finance; have at least five years experience as an auditor for a private firm or governmental agency; have at least five years experience auditing sales tax compliance for either state or local agencies; have sufficient financial and physical resources to perform the scope of services and have a physical office in Pine Bluff.

The proposals must be submitted by Friday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m. via United States Postal Service or be hand-delivered to 1 Convention Center Plaza, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.