Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Firing Continues: Mayor Willis Dismisses Three More Employees

Dana J. Flowers
On February 9, 2011, Mayor Arnell Willis had another round of letters submitted to employees as part of his "Four Phases" of terminations. The termination letters read the same way as did the prior 17 or 18 letters issued. Here's a link to a file copy of the letter of termination (PINK SLIP).

Mayor Willis has not, in his letters, given any specific reason for these terminations other than the fact that he was elected in November and took office on January 1, 2011. He goes on to say that he will be taking the city in new direction.

Felicia Ross-Jordan
The information received by the Inside Scoop Online is that all terminated employees, thus far, have qualified to receive unemployment benefits with one exception. This could have the impact of raising the city's employment insurance rating.

The city council has scheduled hearings for the employees who lost their jobs. These hearings will take place on March 1, 2011, provided that proper notice is provided to the affected employees. The basis for the hearings is a "little known" section of the employee handbook which gives City of Helena-West Helena employees the right to appeal the decision of the mayor in four (4) limited circumstances. Those circumstances are:

  1. Suspension for more than three (3) days;
  2. Demotion;
  3. Failure to Promote; and
  4. Termination.
This policy was written, I am told, to strike a balance between allowing the mayor to run the city's day to day operation and providing an effective process for aggrieved employees that might, in the long run, save the city some litigation costs. During the Valley administration, there were an estimated 30 to  40 employee hearings held. Generally speaking, the city council ratified the decision of the mayor. This includes the most recent city council that generally voted eight (8) against the mayor and two (2) for the mayor.

Our information is that one other employee was terminated on the same day as Flowers and Jordan. His mother, however, is alleged to have called the mayor and had a conversation with the mayor that resulted in him returning to work within the police department.

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