'No confidence' in McMahan; Bauxite Council vote ends 3-1 against mayor
At the close of a council meeting that included accusations of illegal activity from council members toward Mayor Johnny McMahan, aldermen ended the two-and-one-half-hour session with a vote of "no confidence" in the mayor.
During the comments section at the end of the meeting, Alderman Mona Struble called for the no-confidence stance against McMahan and his ability to lead the city.
Voting for Struble's motion were Struble, Karen Brooks and Paula Matthews; Alderman Brenda Haney voted against the action.
McMahan said the vote was out of order because he had already declared the meeting adjourned. However, a motion to adjourn the meeting had not been made or seconded by any of the council members.
McMahan stood as the council finished the vote 3-1 against him. Following the tally, McMahan pounded the gavel and declared the meeting adjourned for a second time.
The meeting began with difficulty assigning a council member to take minutes for the meeting. The city does not have a recorder/treasurer at present.
The council and mayor have not reached agreements on previous candidates. When none of the council members volunteered to take minutes, McMahan asked city attorney Pam Perry to serve as recorder.
Separate ordinances to lower the pay of the mayor and city council members failed to pass following discussion.
McMahan had proposed cutting the monthly salaries of the elected officials in order to create revenue that could then be used to address water and sewer department issues.
McMahan also noted that pay for comparable positions in neighboring cities of similar sizes and population is less than what is paid to Bauxite officials.
Matthews stated that her concern regarding the two ordinances was the disparity of reduction between the council members' pay and the mayor's. McMahan had recommended that the pay for council members be reduced from $175 to $50 per month and that the mayor's pay be reduced from $865 to $740.
The pay reductions would have been in effect beginning Jan. 1, 2015, according to language in the proposed ordinances.
"My concern is that this is an 80 percent reduction for council members and only a 12 percent drop for the mayor," said Matthews. McMahan countered by saying these two rates were his suggestions, but the council members could use their judgment and lower his pay to whatever rate they deemed appropriate.
Struble suggested the council postpone action on the proposed ordinances until the results of a recent legislative audit are available.
McMahan stated he expects the audit results to be presented to the city within the next month.
After considerable discussion, the council decided to postpone action until audit results are finalized.
Brooks asked the council to remove her name from the list of officials required to sign checks for the city.
"I suspect illegal activity and I don't want my name on it. It's that simple," Brooks said.
McMahan told the council that "we have to have a motion to take her off, but need somebody to sign the checks. Two signatures are required." Struble presented a motion to remove Brooks from signature authority and the council passed the measure by a vote of 4-0. McMahan then requested that the council name a replacement for Brooks.
"We need someone to sign the checks," the mayor said. "We pay bills almost every day. We need someone that's available. Which one of you will take her place?"
Haney said she holds two jobs and doesn't have time to do this. Struble said she has three jobs and wouldn't be able to sign the checks in a timely manner.
Matthews said, "I don't work, but I'm not doing it."
With none of the council members being willing to accept responsibility, McMahan said, "If no one wants to sign checks, I guess we won't pay our employees."
Brooks responded by saying, "I don't want to go to jail."
"One of the council members needs to step forward. I do my part. I sign the checks," said McMahan.
Brooks agreed to resume the responsibility under the condition that an ad be placed to hire a recorder/treasurer and that she would no longer sign checks after the position is filled.
The council voted 4-0 to place Brooks back on the signature list on city accounts.
Brooks did not elaborate on her allegation of illegal activity.
The council went into executive session to discuss compensation for the city attorney. Following a 25-minute closed session, the council announced that no action was taken.
Any decisions made in an executive session must be voted on in open session.
The purpose for the session had been reported in the July 21 edition of The Saline Courier to be regarding the residency status of Struble, but this was incorrect.
In other business, the council heard reports from the Arkansas Rural Water Association regarding the current condition of city accounts for water and sewer. Recommendations from the ARWA included an increase in rates to offset anticipated operation and maintenance costs at current and future levels.
During the comments section of the meeting, McMahan noted that the filing period for municipal candidates begins on July 25. Every council position as well as the mayor's post are up for election in November.
McMahan noted that anyone desiring to serve the city must obtain paperwork from the county clerk's office.