Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Roberson Says City Would Benefit If Willis Would Follow Base Pay Ordinance

HELENA-WEST HELENA- During a discussion of the city's financial situation during Tuesday's city council meeting with Willis having a cop for every ten people in the audience and state police outside, City Treasurer Patrick Roberson told the city council that it would help the city in its efforts to pay off debt if Mayor Arnell Willis would simply follow the base pay ordinance and pay himself and others the salaries required by the ordinance.

The bombshell moment came during questioning about the city's most recent financial report. Roberson reported that the city was making some progress and Aldermen Don Etherly and Christopher Franklin brought out that the Valley administration left Willis with almost $500000 to start the year. Franklin pointedly asked Roberson, "Couldn't we save even more money if the Mayor would follow the base pay ordinance?" Roberson replied, "Yes, that's a no brainer."

During additional discussion of the budget, Willis refused to commit to follow the base pay ordinance. Currently the ordinance says he should make $48000 and City Attorney Chalk Mitchell should be paid $42000. Willis is paying himself $75000 and Mitchell more than $60000. Alderman Marvin Jarrett said during the discussion, "If you would follow the base pay ordinance, then we would already have a budget.

Then came the next bombshell of the meeting, Willis responded to questioning from Alderman Monica Davis about Willis's ability to spend without a budget by saying, "We filed a lawsuit asking for clarity on that." Willis is actually a defendant in the lawsuit filed by Reverend Cedric Pride, Jim Frazier, and others. This is the first public acknowledgment by Willis that he was in discussions with the plaintiffs to file this lawsuit against him. Since filing, the City Attorney has said Pride should get what he wants, which is to give Willis the authority to operate the city without a budget.

Alderman Don Etherly added, "When you vetoed the budget we passed, you had an obligation to shut the city down. The federal government has to have a budget. The state government has to have a budget. You contend that the City of Helena-West Helena doesn't have to have a budget. We have no legal authority to be operating."

The council has passed a budget with numbers that match Willis's on 90% of the expenditures. However, Willis has not offered any compromise proposals. His response on this issue at the meeting was "I submitted a budget." This prompted Davis to say, "I don't feel like you're willing to negotiate. It seems like it's your way or no way."

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