Fort Smith Board discusses legal billing issue, library millage election

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

The Fort Smith Board of Directors will hear the city's side of recent allegations by attorney Matt Campbell that the city was billed for legal services never provided in its defense of a lawsuit brought by Campbell.

Campbell, a Little Rock-based attorney and counsel for a group of police officers engaged in a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, made the claims on his Blue Hog Report blog.

City Director Philip Merry brought the issue to the forefront at the end of Tuesday's (June 3) Board meeting, where he asked for a certified public accountant (CPA) to do a review of the Daily and Woods Law Firm's billing to the city. He had also proposed forming a five-member council to evaluate whether the city should continue paying an outside law firm to represent the city on a contract basis or whether the city should employ its own staff attorney(s).

In announcing his desire to see an accounting firm review the billing by Daily and Woods, Merry said it was not based on an assumption of guilt.

"No wrong doing is assumed in any way on this motion," he said. "As stewards of other people's money — that being the taxpayer's money — we must assure an open air, objective full review of the process to our taxpayers."

As Merry was making his proposal for the independent committee to review the city's employment or contracting with attorneys for services, Mayor Sandy Sanders cut Merry off and said since he had not presented the items at the beginning of the meeting when directors were asked whether they had items to add to the agenda, it was not a proper motion.

Instead, it was decided that the city's contract with Daily and Woods, as well as the firm's billing of the city, would be reviewed at a June 10 study session of the Board.

LIBRARY MILLAGE ELECTION
In other business, the Board set a special meeting for June 10 prior to the study session to consider a special election in August for a millage increase for the library. According to state law, the city must authorize the library's ability to hold an election to raise its millage.

According to Fort Smith Public Library Executive Director Jennifer Goodson, the library has not had a millage increase in more than 50 years. The library's board of directors is seeking a two mil increase, which would raise the rate on Fort Smith landowners to three mils, or what she said was about $60 per year on a $100,000 home.

The Board balked at holding a special election when no other elections would be held in conjunction to the library vote.

"You know Jennifer, I think the timing is bad," said City Director George Catsavis. "You know how the economy is around here and how people are struggling to pay their bills, including me. I've had to raise the deductible on my insurance to keep my escrow in balance. Two mils doesn't sound like much, but this is a bad time for it."

In response, Goodson said the library wanted to add services, including streaming video, and could not without the millage increase.

In addition to the point of adding services, Goodson said the library has had to dip into strategic reserves during the last two years at a time when it was serving a larger number of patrons, another reason why the library wanted to ask for a millage increase.

City Director Mike Lorenz asked why the library could not wait to hold the election until November in order to save money. Goodson said such a delay could mean the millage vote would get overlooked by the partisan elections locally and at a state level that would be on November's ballot.

In all, she said the cost of an election would be $30,000 and would be paid for out of library funding, meaning the city would not be out any money on the election, nor would the county election commission.

The special Board meeting will take place June 10 at noon in the library, with the study session on Daily and Woods to follow.

SUSTAINABILITY PUSHBACK
The Board also tabled a resolution expressing support for a sustainability initiative proposed by the University of Arkansas at a study session last week.

Advertisement:

The Board tabled the resolution following outcry from citizens who fear the resolution was part of a United Nations act that pushed for more sustainable growth on a global level. Attorney Joey McCutchen told the Board that the resolution would also put unnecessary regulation on Fort Smith citizens.

The resolution will be investigated in more detail at a later study session as a result of Tuesday's tabling.

The Board also failed to make a motion to adopt a new governing policy, with the proposed governance policy dying due to a lack of a motion. City Clerk Sherri Gard said as a result, the item would not be brought up for another vote.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 5 (10 votes)

Like This Article? Share It!

Comments

The odds are the new proposed library millage WOULD

more likely be overlooked in a special election. You can read about how these kinds of things actually work at the library. People will probably spring for this anyway even if they loath every aspect of a new tax. It sounds like a good idea and it's a lot about their kids. I'm with Joey on the notion that maybe we don't want to go with each and every idea somebody somewhere out there received a pile of funding money to come up with even though I do agree that cramming people together just the way you want them probably is a lot more efficient.

Special Elections

Special Elections add cost to the taxpayers and we all know that its a way to get spending passed because most people don't vote in special elections and only people who rally for the tax show up at the polls. Put it on the November ballot and let a true majority decide if they want the new tax.

Library

I've got a better idea. I think we should go ahead and give the library what they want. Name another entity in Fort Smith, that hasn't asked for an increase in over 50 years. They obviously are very good stewards of the money they are given. Fort Smith is very lucky to have Jennifer Goodson and her staff. We really need a great library and one that is forward thinking and adding services. This is what she's trying to give us. Thank you Jennifer and all her staff we're very lucky to have you.

George Said

Its not a good time for a property tax increase so speak for yourself Bryan unless you want to pay everyone's share of a proposed property tax increase.

Bryan, Go Ahead and give, but don't obligate working families

Every time property values increae, the library gets a raise. A average house 50 years ago sold for around $25,000. Multiply that times millage rate and the property tax has probably increased close to $1000 a year, during that time and the library receives its' share of increase. So Bryan, I agree with Bookworm and George, maybe the library should practice fiscal responsibility, like the working families of Fort Smith, rather than adding to a bloated budget.

The Bryan Vision

Spend other working families hard earned money to make himself feel good! Sorry Bryan but we have too many other people doing just that in Fort Smith and the well is dry. We need more events downtown, we need more business, and we need more jobs to feed the hungry parasites. Fort Smith has lost 14,000 jobs in the last few years and raising property taxes is not the answer.

Libary

The library is fiscally conservative. They are wanting to keep with the times and add services they don't currently offer. I'd like them for free but that doesn't happen.

Tax

It's not a good time for a tax. IT'S NEVER A GOOD TIMe FOR A TAX; noone likes to pay them including me. However, when an entitiy in Fort Smith is asking for a relatively speaking small tax after not getting one if 56 years is not right I can't imagine not letting the people have a choice early, expecialy since the library is paying for EVERYTHING associated with it.

Hey Bryan

If the library has the money to pay for everything associated with a special election then why do they need a property tax increase now? The library is using grant money from the city (taxpayers) to sponsor an expensive special election when the issue belongs on the November Ballot. Really would like to see taxpayer money used for a good cause and not wasted on special elections when we are only a few months away from having our regular election.

What Are You Saying Bryan

If the library has enough money to pay for everything including advertising, special election costs, and everything else associated with a special election, why do they need any more money from the homeowners?

Is Bryan Suggesting

that people can stand another property tax increase on their homes and business buildings.

Yep Bryan

The library has had an increase in income every time property values have gone up over the last 50 years and property values have increased greatly over that time. The Library does a great job with services but with the loss of 14,000 jobs over the last few years in Fort Smith, now is not the right time for a property tax increase. Bryan also claims that the library will pay all costs associated with a special election but its really the taxpayers who will pay so put the issue on the November ballot and everybody will save.

Digital Age Library--Kindles for everybody.

How about using tax revenue to link the entire city via WIFI. Then provide fiber optic hi-speed cables for net neutrality. The recently touted hi-tech hub and robotic golf along with the Air Guard Drone services all fit right into the digital age. Fort Smith is needs to progress from the Jurassic Age into the post-industrial, digital, space-age. You don't do that with old infrastructure and outmoded ways. "Check-out" http://dp.la/

Cox won't let that happen

They've got a monopoly just about around here. Established internet providers LOVE trying to get municipal networks made illegal. Would I love to see this happen? YES. I'd love Google to bring in the fiber. But I don't see this one happening unfortunately.

Special elections usually though are to slip things in..

..the faithful are well informed that their raise WILL likely hinge on it's passage. Back in the day, the trusted news source that kept us all informed the right way reported it with plenty of time to forget then mentioned it about once again on election day page 7. (Where is it your eyes are least likely to look?) Too bad the press broke down and the dang thing arrived after you had already left for work. Do not say you weren't informed here in Ft Smith.