Several issues have surfaced since newly-elected Mayor Arnell Willis unveiled his budget proposals and personnel choices shortly after taking office on January 1, 2011. Here is a synopsis of the larger obstacles to passing a budget:
- Trustworthiness of Willis numbers- Mayor Arnell Willis declared the city to be bankrupt at his very first council meeting while simultaneously releasing a budget that shows the city with a $1 million surplus. Either the city is broke or it is not. It has been verfied that there was over $500000 in cash in the city coffers when Willis took office.
- Appropriateness of Pay Levels- While shouting at the top of his lungs that the city is broke, Mayor Willis called for raising the starting pay for the Mayor to over $90000 from the entry level salary in the city code of $48000. He requested similar levels of increased starting pay for the City Attorney and is paying other new employees more than the city code allows as well.
- Controversial Hiring Choices- While making claims about the city being broke, Mayor Willis has continued to hire new people. He fired Victor Jordan at the Sanitation Department. Instead of merging that department with the Street Department to save funds, he hired political activist Bobby Jones as the Sanitation Director. Jones was removed a few years ago from the Helena-West Helena School Board after a sealed felony conviction was introduced in a court case that sought his removal. Also fired was Parks and Recreation Director O'Shea Burrell, a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with five years experience. Instead of eliminating that position upon termination, Willis hired Anthony "King Deuce" Banks. The Inside Scoop has been provided with information that Banks has had troubles with the law in the past as well. Also hired as the Chief of Staff was Alan Martin, the chair of the Phillips County Republican Party and Marilyn Kountz as the Mayor's new adminstrative assistant.