Mitchell becomes third Saline mayor facing recall

"You call me the ringleader, so I hate to be the bearer of bad news" were the words of Alexander Alderman Andy Mullins as he rose to address mayor Paul Mitchell during the Alexander City Council meeting Tuesday night. Mullins approached Mitchell and handed him a copy of a petition for signatures to recall the mayor from office. Mitchell looked at the petition briefly before wading it into a ball and leaving it on his desk. The action was the final piece of business of the meeting. The council adjourned shortly thereafter. Mullins says he has had contact with Alexander residents who are ready to sign the petition. "It's what the city is wanting. I'm here for what the city wants as an elected official," he added. "We won't have any problems getting the signatures," said Mullins. He researched the initiative and says a total of 233 signatures from the Saline County portion of Alexander and a total of 20 signatures from the Pulaski County side of Alexander are needed to put the measure before the residents for a vote. Mullins stated he consulted with Bryant Alderman Adrian Henley regarding the steps necessary to initiate the recall process. Henley recently started an effort to recall Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs from office. Henley had not returned messages to verify Mullins' claim of involvement at press time. At the conclusion of the meeting, six people signed the petition before leaving. Approximately 40 people were in attendance. Mullins said he has been considering the recall initiative for several weeks but has feared coming forward. He says he has received telephone calls and threats from those who support Mitchell. "I'm afraid he will have his cronies come around and shoot up my house," said Mullins. As of press time, Mitchell had not returned calls or messages regarding the recall initiative or other comments made by Mullins. If comments are received, they will be reported in the Saline Courier. Mitchell is the third current Saline County mayor facing a recall initiative. Dabbs in Bryant is facing a challenge led by Henley and Bauxite Mayor Johnny McMahan is the object of an effort initiated by Bauxite resident Debbi Purifoy. In other business, Mullins raised the issue of city employees using their city vehicles for personal use, despite a directive from Mitchell not to do so. Mullins produced photographs of the vehicle driven by Fire Chief Mark Ridgeway parked outside an establishment outside Alexander city limits. Ridgeway confirmed the location of the business in the photograph and said he had gone there to meet his wife. "I'm on call 24/7," said Ridgeway. "I listen to all the calls coming in and if it requires me to be there, I respond to the call." Mitchell responded to the issue by saying he had distributed the city policy against personal use of city vehicles to all department heads and expected it to be followed. He told the council he would have a meeting with Ridgeway to get additional details. Alderman Dorothy Smith urged Mitchell to have the conversation during the council meeting. Mitchell stated he would talk with Ridgeway as a department head in a meeting to be scheduled. He also said he would decide a course of action based upon the outcome of the meeting. Ridgeway told the council "it will not happen again" in regard to his personal use of the city vehicle. Mullins also questioned Police Chief Horace Waters about one of the city police vehicles being parked outside a business during off-duty hours. Waters explained that he had approved the action by one of his officers. The officer in question works off-duty at the establishment and Waters approved the action because "it's on his way home and no additional tax dollars are spent on fuel." Mullins and the council were satisfied by Waters' decision, but the matter came up during public comment. The sentiment expressed by two residents present was that this was an abuse of city finances and that "if it's not OK for one, it shouldn't be for another." Alderman Regina Watson addressed the council and the crowd gathered at the meeting regarding a program of community involvement she is spearheading to improve the city and its image. A separate story of this effort will be published in a later edition of The Saline Courier. The meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.