Wednesday, July 09, 2014

TOP STORY >> Council to vote on parks board member

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert and the parks commission butted heads once again at the city council’s agenda-setting meeting on Monday over an appointment to the board, but the mayor will likely get his way.

The commission was upset that the mayor did not consider people who submitted resumes to the commission for the position.

The council voted 5-1, plus one abstaining, to vote on the appointment of car dealer Dennis Ward at its July 21 meeting.

Also to be considered at that meeting is a proposed ordinance that would allow the city’s code- enforcement office to inspect rental properties at least every few years.

The ordinance — if passed — would also mean the properties could be inspected more often if there are complaints, changes in ownership or a visually obvious ebbing in their upkeep, according to code enforcement officer Scott Kelley.

Officials had discussed the issue in public previously because Cabot recently evacuated a second dilapidated apartment complex for the tenants’ safety.

After Kelley presented the ordinance to the council, Cypert asked aldermen to consider placing the appointment of Ward and the re-appointment of Eric Park to the Parks and Recreation Commission on their July 21 agenda.

Commission chairwoman Maggie Cope told the aldermen she was concerned because the mayor first told her and the commissioners to collect resumes from people who were interested in filling the seat that will be vacant after Sept. 13.

Cypert then ignored the six resumes they received and wouldn’t tell the commission who his choice was, Cope explained.

When the mayor first took office four years ago, he threatened to disband the commission if it didn’t start taking more responsibility for running Cabot’s parks.

On Monday, Cypert said the commission was “totally dysfunctional” two years ago, but had been doing a good job since John Crow was hired to head the department.

The mayor told the council he solicited input from several sources before selecting Ward as his appointee per the ordinance that gives him that authority.

Cypert pointed out that he is “totally responsible” for the bond issue that is funding a $13.5 million sports and aquatics complex. Last year, Cabot voters approved an extension of the one-cent sales tax that is supporting a $42 million bond issue for parks projects, sewer improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library and drainage work in the Highlands subdivision.

Ken Kincade, co-chairman of the parks commission, said Cypert ignoring the resumes that were collected left Cope and other commissioners with “egg on their face” because they had to call those who submitted resumes to let them know they wouldn’t be considered for the appointment.

Kincade then apologized to Ward, saying the comments were not about the commission being against his appointment.

Cypert said he thought the commission understood that the council created it and could disband it with a vote.

“I think the point you’re missing is, ultimately, everything that happens in this city stops right here. I sit behind the desk,” the mayor continued, pointing to himself. “(The aldermen) govern the budget. Some ordinances stipulate that the commission recommends to the mayor the appointees, nominations…The mayor still has the job of finding a good match for what he thinks the commission needs to have. Most of the names are already on the list. I keep a list of potential commissioners for every commission.”

Cypert said Cope gave him two names that are now on his list. But he could add the other four who sent in their resumes, the mayor told the council.

“I hear what you’re saying. The parks and rec commission is doing a great job. We’re not going to have a ruckus over this. But I am ultimately responsible…The buck stops here. You all have been very cooperative,” Cypert told Cope.

Cope asked the mayor, “How do you know this is the best pick if you didn’t look at the other resumes?”

Cypert responded, “Maggie, I’m not going to get in a debate with you on this agenda meeting floor. It’s ultimately my decision to appoint someone to the commission, and I appointed someone. It stands.”

He added that the council would have the final say because their job is to vote on appointments.

Nancy Cohea, a former candidate for the city council, asked Ward if he would be another member of the commission who doesn’t show up for meetings.

Ward said, “I hope not. I will give it a good effort.”

She also asked what his connection was to the parks department.

Ward said his family has spent a lot of time at the city’s parks over the last 30 years and that three of his six grandchildren play on Cabot sports teams.

Ward was asked if he had anything else to say. He said, “No, not really. I was hoping it wouldn’t be controversial. That’s all.”

In response to an Alderman Rick Prentice’s questions, Ward said he was asked if he wanted to be on the commission and that his immediate response was yes.
Ward did not request the post.

Prentice abstained from the vote to place the appointment on the agenda because he has done business with Ward’s dealership in the past and plans to continue that relationship.
Aldermen Ryan Flynn and Ann Gilliam said they understood where the commission was coming from but that their job is to consider the mayor’s appointments.

Gilliam added that a longer resume for Ward would have been helpful.

The resume, exactly as it appears in the council’s packet, reads, “Born in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas July 1955, graduated high school in 1973 and married my wife Marsha in 1974; and, we have three grown children and six grandchildren. Marsha and I live in Sun Terrace subdivision.

“Been self-employed all my adult life and currently have our family owned business, Red River Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Heber Springs and Malvern Arkansas, also an independent dealership in Jacksonville Arkansas on the freeway called City Motors Preowned.

“I have been a member of McAthur Church for 26 years. I feel like I have always been slow to speak and act, but listen to gather information to make informative decisions and will make an effort to pull my load, if seen fit.”