Bryant Republicans under fire | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bryant Republicans under fire

Posted By on Sat, Mar 12, 2011 at 7:01 AM

SWIMMING IN CONTROVERSY: Republican Jill Dabbs, Bryant mayor.
  • SWIMMING IN CONTROVERSY: Republican Jill Dabbs, Bryant mayor.
I wrote yesterday about efforts by Republican Jill Dabbs and Republican Heather Kizer, the newly elected mayor and clerk, respectively, in Bryant, to be paid more than allowed by city ordinance. City ordinance sets pay below what they claimed. A city council adopted personnel policy provides enhancements for education and elected service. According to the ordinance policy, Republican Dabbs and Republican Kizer should be paid less than their predecessors, both being elected newcomers. (I identify each as "Republican" because they tried unsuccessfully to claim this was part of their legal names when filing for the ballot last year.)

Dabbs and Kizer didn't like the pay differential. And here's where it gets interesting. According to other Bryant city officials, Dabbs ordered higher paychecks for herself and Kizer despite 1) the ordinance and policy that make higher pay illegal and 2) having been informed about the city policy after being elected in November. One of Dabbs' first official acts, by the way, was firing the human resources employee who'd backgrounded her about Bryant salary law.

A complaint about the unilateral pay increase was made last week to the prosecuting attorney in Saline County. He's a Republican. He reportedly evinced little interest into inquiring whether the Bryant mayor had ordered payment of city funds to herself and her clerk that they were not entitled to receive. But the activities had some results. Inquiries under the FOI apparently prompted Dabbs' rear-covering last week. She lowered the pay she'd ordered for herself after three inflated pay periods and issued a news release complaining about the unfairness of it all. She also said she'd sought legal advice from the attorney general. She hopes, presumably, to find some after-the-fact support for her pay increase. Of course, even if the pay ordinance and policy are unconstitutional or not allowed by state law, the way to address that was to change the ordinance or file a court challenge, not to quietly increase your own pay without review by the City Council.

Going to be fun down in Bryant with Republican Dabbs and Republican Kizer in control. Just last week, somebody (council members naturally suspect Dabbs) tried to slip a little special sweetener into a batch of proposals for use of the city's new swimming facility by four swimming teams. They were essentially identical agreements, except for the contract for the swim team on which Dabbs' daughter competes, the Bryant Barracudas. The Barracudas were to be provided not just pool privileges but three city-paid swimming coaches. Council members blew the whistle. Dabbs has a clear conflict of interest on this issue, as a member of the supervisory committee and former president of the swim team. The agenda packet for the swim proposals is here. See paragraph 16 of the Bryant Barracudas agreement, where it would be provided three city-paid swim instructors.

Read more about Dabbs on her Facebook page. She was manager of her husband's chiropractic clinic before jumping into city politics.

PS — I'm reminded that Dabbs was investigated by the state Ethics Commission for alleged misuse of campaign money. She's told a variety of stories about using the campaign money (to establish herself in court as Republican Dabbs) — that it was corrected before the complaint was filed (it wasn't); that she didn't know about the law; that she knew about the law but inadvertently picked up the wrong checkbook. Slippery as a barracuda, you might say. The tactics need not be held an ethics violation to give pause about the quality of the leadership.

PPS — I'm reminded Dabbs can be a stickler about city ordinances, as when she and pals filed an election season lawsuit over water rate increases they said diverged from ordinance requirements.

And, finally, the mayor has responded to my note asking to hear more about her side of events. I hope to talk to her by Monday.

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