Tuesday, January 24, 2017

TOP STORY >> Ward arrest sheds light on nepotism

Leader senior staff writer

Two sons and a granddaughter of longtime Ward Mayor Art Brooke work or worked in some fashion for the city, Brooke confirmed Tuesday, but there is no state law against it, according to Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League.

The question arose after the mayor’s son, Mark Brooke, the Ward probation officer, was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly soliciting prostitution from an undercover officer posing as one of his probationers.


He has worked for the city for 13 years and has been its probation officer for nine years. Before that he worked two years in parks and recreation and two years in the street department.

Mark Brooke is on paid leave and may be reassigned to another city department, the mayor said last week.

As a probation officer, Mark Brooke, 53, was paid $12.35 an hour and earned $25,688 in 2015. He said he helped probationers find work with local employers such as Goodwill in Cabot.

Another son, Casey Brooke, works for the Ward Water and Sewer Department. The mayor said Casey, a military retiree, was hired by the department director.

The mayor’s granddaughter, Ricci Brooke, worked for the parks department, a job she got after working there in a student program, he said.

The mayor said he didn’t believe any of the three family members working for the city violated any city ordinance or any law he knew of.


“Generally, nepotism is not prohibited by state law or municipal law,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a matter of local control. The smaller the city, the more likely the mayor is to have relatives on the payroll. Sometimes it works out great, other times it’s abused.”

According to a Ward ordinance, “Relatives of a person employed by the city of Ward may be hired only if they will not be working directly for or supervised by a relative.”

“They worked for different department heads,” Art Brooke said. “As mayor, I approve or disapprove of their hiring choices.”


District Court Judge Clint McGue said Tuesday that Ward Deputy Court Clerk Justin McCoy would become the probation officer, but having been in office less than a month, McGue said he wasn’t certain who does the actual hiring.

McCoy is already a city employee.

According to the 2011 Ward Municipal Code, “The Judge of the Ward District Court shall, with the approval of the City Council, appoint a probation officer(s) to serve as such on either a part-time or full-time basis.

“The judge was (Mark Brooke’s) boss,” Mayor Art Brooke said, but as mayor, “I signed the paycheck.”

McGue said the mayor would have been the probation officer’s supervisor, but the mayor said McGue would have been supervisor.

The mayor said his son was hired by the previous judge, Joe O’Bryan, who lost to McGue in November.