Benton City Council members voted to approve two separate personnel items during its Monday night meeting.
The council approved an ordinance creating the position of Assistant City Attorney for Human Resources. Alderman Judd Hart was the lone objector to the ordinance and Alderman Steve Lee chose to abstain. Lee said he was unable to envision a person with a law degree accepting the position. Hart asked City Attorney Baxter Drennon why he needed the assistant. Drennon said the city had been working to fill the role of HR director for some time now and that the city also had money in the budget for administrative roles.
“We could combine those two salaries into a position and we could get an HR person that has HR legal experience,” said Drennon.
The Assistant City Attorney will also assist the city attorney with the day-to-day work of the office.
Hart also asked if the person in the position would have their legal practice to which Mayor Tom Farmer said they would not as it is a full-time position. The pay grade listed in the job description is $62,400 to $93,600. The general description of the job states that they would assist the city attorney with providing legal representation to the Mayor, City Council, and other entities of the city with “overall administration, coordination and evaluation of Human Resources functions.” The position requires an active Arkansas law license and good standing with the Arkansas Bar.
The council also agreed to increase the salaries of the city’s Chief Financial Officer and Accounting Manager by 10 percent. Mayor Tom Farmer said they decided to increase the pay of the two positions because the two staff members had taken on an extra workload due to the vacancy of the HR Director position.
Alexis Agnew, a Benton Resident from Ward 5, asked the council if other city employees that taken on an extra workload also receive a salary increase.
Alderman Jeff Morrow echoed Farmer and said it was because they are taking on additional responsibilities.
“We’ve been unable to hire an HR director so they are taking on a lot of additional functions,” said Morrow.
Agnew asked if other city employees taking on additional responsibilities will be compensated for that as well. Agnew then pointed out that she had been watching the job openings on the city’s website.
“There are a ton that have gone unfilled, which means there are people currently doing those jobs and I just want to make sure that if we are going to pay our current CFO for doing extra work, that we are also paying all the other people that are doing extra work,” said Agnew.
Morrow said that it’s common practice for people to have additional responsibilities in any institution or job but that this was an extraordinary case because taking on a responsibility like Human Resources is vital to the function of the city.