"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
I thought it nutty when Jill Dabbs, a candidate for Bryant mayor, and Heather Kizer, candidate for Bryant clerk, filed suit last year to have their names listed on the ballot as Republican Jill Dabbs and Republican Heather Kizer.
They lost the lawsuit, but they won elections to the non-partisan offices. And maybe it wasn't so nutty. Bryant is a growing Republican enclave and they wanted the partisan branding. The lawsuit was cheap publicity to achieve it.
What Dabbs and Kizer have done to the Republican brand since then is another matter. The latest controversy was Dabbs' decision that she and Kizer weren't paid enough. Bryant has a somewhat curious pay policy that provides up to 15 percent in pay enhancement for the mayor and clerk based on education and experience in elective office. Dabbs was informed of this after election by the city's human resources employee. Her pay began at the level she'd been told to expect. When Dabbs realized this was less than that paid the previous mayor (who'd served many years in the legislature), she wasn't happy about it. She ordered a new payroll employee (Dabbs fired the human resources employee shortly after taking office) to increase her and Kizer's pay. That was worth an extra $400 a month for Dabbs, whose base pay should have been $65,604 annual, and an extra $140 a month for Kizer, whose base pay should have been $39,312.
Dabbs didn't inform the City Council of this decision. She didn't seek an attorney general's opinion. She just did it. Then Bryant Alderman Danny Steele, acting on tips, began making FOI requests. Dabbs had second thoughts. She rolled back the raises after three rounds of increased paychecks. She then issued a news release saying the pay reduction was unfair and not allowed by a state law that she contends prohibits reductions in city official pay. She said she'd seek an attorney general's opinion. Rear-covering, in other words.
Steele thought the record was clear. Dabbs had authorized pay for herself and her friend Kizer not authorized by the City Council. He complained to Ken Casady, the Saline County prosecutor, another Republican. Casady wasn't interested, Steele said.
It's only the latest political hubbub. Dabbs had already been cautioned by the state Ethics Commission for improperly using campaign funds for 1) a lawsuit she filed over city water rates and 2) the lawsuit to get her name on the ballot as Republican Dabbs. She paid the money back.
The politics are incestuous, too. Dabbs' husband and Kizer's husband are both members of the Saline County Quorum Court. Dabbs has hired Kizer's husband as the interim Bryant police chief. The previous chief was one of at least seven high Bryant officials who either resigned expecting trouble or were fired by Dabbs. City employees, by the way, include Dabbs' daughter, hired as a lifeguard at the city aquatics center.
Speaking of swimming: The Bryant Council recently received a batch of proposals from high school and club swim teams to use the aquatics center. A sharp-eyed Council member noticed a significant difference in the proposal for the Bryant Barracudas. Under it, the city would provide three paid swimming instructors for the team. The mayor's daughter swims on the team. The mayor is a former president of the club.
Bryant has no community newspaper. It needs one. I could barely stay off the phone after a blog post last weekend on muscle-flexing Mayor Republican Dabbs. Something tells me she's not through building her brand. From what I hear, some Bryant Republicans wish she'd pick a different nickname.
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