HELENA-WEST HELENA- The Helena-West Helena City Council passed a 4th budget Tuesday night by a vote of 6-4. For the fourth time, Mayor Arnell Willis has pledged to veto the budget.
The budget discussion featured considerable wrangling as Alderman Jay Hollowell and Joe St. Columbia refused to discuss the budget brought by Don Etherly, who offered to go through the budget line by line to answer any of their concerns. At one point, Hollowell lashed out at the audience when they were urging him to discuss the budget.
Etherly pointed out that the difference between the budget he brought and the one advocated by Mayor Willis and Hollowell is infinitesimal. The major differences are that Willis wants a higher salary for him and two other elected officials and Willis wants to pay Bobby "Ga Ga" Jones and Anthony "Deuce" Banks as department heads more than the base pay allows after not following the municipal code's procedure to hire them.
Alderman Marvin Jarrett entered two Attorney General's opinions into the record that refute Willis's contention that the budget can't be done by resolution and can't be a document formulated by the City Council.
A lawsuit has been filed by Willis supporters Cedric Pride and Jim Frazier. The lawsuit asks Judge Bentley Story to allow Mayor Willis to operate the city without a budget. City Attorney Chalk Mitchell has sided with the plaintiffs against the position of the majority of the city council.
Mitchell told Etherly, "Four of you want a budget, but six of you don't." Those six have passed all four budgets. Etherly pledged to intervene in the case with his own counsel.