Bauxite city attorney resigns over FOI dispute

Bauxite City Attorney Pam Perry resigned from her position on Thursday.

Mayor Johnny McMahan notified Bauxite City Council members of the resignation via email.

In that communication, he stated: "I met with Bauxite City Attorney Pam Perry today for lunch in downtown Little Rock. Pam and I discussed a number of issues and then she gave me the attached letter."

The letter from Pam Perry reads: "As you are aware, I hold two positions with the city of Bauxite for which I was hired separately and am paid for separately. The first position is the city prosecutor. The second position is the city attorney. I am resigning my position as city attorney effective Aug. 21, 2014.

"It is no longer in the best interests of my private law practice to continue serving the city of Bauxite as city attorney as considerable time and resources were diverted from my law practice in order to complete the recent FOIA request of Alderman Mona Struble," she said.

"The completion of the request was not part of my job duties and responsibilities for the city of Bauxite. The request was served upon me individually as an attorney and I completed the request accordingly and met my responsibilities in accordance with FOIA. The documents stand ready for payment and pickup."
She added that she has "completed all of my obligations and responsibilities to the city of Bauxite as city attorney at this time. I wish you well."

McMahan accepted Perry's resignation at 1:40 p.m.

Perry said, "I would add, in addition to the letter of resignation, that I was the Bauxite City Prosecutor when the city attorney position came open, so I agreed to take the additional position within certain parameters. In recent months, I have received several demands from Alderman Struble to perform legal work that I advised, upon investigation and due diligence, has either no basis in statutory law or was outside the parameters of my responsibilities or my legal expertise.

"When she served a voluminous FOIA request upon me, I initially asked her to narrow the scope of her request in order to save costs for both of us and enable me to meet the FOIA time requirement in getting the documents to her, but she refused, and I complied with the request as sent to me in accordance with the FOIA."

As a result of this incident, Perry said she submitted her resignation as cit attorney.

McMahan commented on the resignation saying, "I lay the resignation of Pam Perry at the foot of council member Mona Struble as she made obnoxious statements to Ms. Perry that were inappropriate and very unprofessional. She demanded that Pam do legal work that was beyond the scope of Ms. Perry's job as city attorney and berated her when she would not comply with her demands. Mona (Alderman Mona Struble) thought Ms. Perry was her personal attorney and chided her when Pam would not do her bidding."

McMahan continued saying, "Please note that when I hired Pam she agreed to attend and observe our council meetings and help keep up out of the ditches and also to review our proposed ordinances and resolutions before they were voted and she did. She was only paid $250 per month and I don't know any other attorney that would have agreed to that arrangement for that amount."

"I believe the straw that broke the camel's back was when Mona requested 1,696 copies of emails ... under the FOI law and she refused to pick them up and pay the 5 cents per copy charge. Mona was using the FOI law to legally harass Pam and thought it was cute. I think Mona's FOI request was not made in good faith and was a simple harassment action that took a lot of Pam's valuable time for no good reason and was useless busy work."

On Aug. 18, Perry sent an email to Struble notifying her that her FOI request was completed in full and was ready for pickup. Payment for the 5 cents per copy charge associated with the 1,696 copies would be due in full at the time of pickup.

The original FOI request was submitted to Perry via email on July 29.

Struble said that she submitted the FOI request not in an attempt to harass Perry but rather to establish a pattern regarding how McMahan treats his employees.

Struble said, "In my opinion, Johnny appointed Pam. She wasn't qualified." Struble said she asked two things of Perry: the first was to dissolve a "court issue that Johnny had caused," specifically the lawsuit filed by Bauxite resident Deborah Purifoy against the city of Bauxite and McMahan, and the second was to prepare documents to charge McMahan with malfeasance.

Struble said that Perry would not prepare the documents to charge McMahan with malfeasance because she was not comfortable adding, "Doing the right thing is not always comfortable."

"I think she (Perry) sees Johnny as a liability," Struble said. "The way I see it, he (McMahan) needs to hand in his keys now."

In response to the FOI, Struble said, "She (Perry) is late. Period."

She added, "The attorney got ugly with me so I held my own, pointed out the facts that apparently she didn't like. If she doesn't want to do her job that we have paid her to do for the last year and eight months, she only has a few months to go. That tells me she knows what he (McMahan) is doing is wrong.
"We are supposed to stand for people, not run over them, falsely accuse them. Pick them up and help, not verbally rip them apart. The way I see it, Johnny owes Bauxite a public apology. A sincere one for the way he has behaved."

Struble concluded, "I am not running amok and I'm trying to deal with the issues at hand."