The Benton City Council personnel committee unanimously voted to go through an interview process to appoint an alderman to fill the Ward 1 council position recently vacated by Kerry Murphy.
According to City Attorney Brent Houston, if a town exceeds a population of 20,000 or more, Arkansas law provides for two ways to fill the position. Due to the fact that the unexpired portion of Murphy’s term exceeds more than one year, the council has the option to either call for a special election or appoint an alderman after an interview process.
“I talked to Mr. (Saline County Clerk Doug) Curtis, he is on vacation,” said Alderman Bill Donnor. “He told me that special election would cost around $12,000.”
Donnor also said that an election would not be able to happen until 2020, leaving the Ward 1 position unoccupied and an automatic “no” vote in every council decision until the position is filled.
“The interview process will be open to the public,” Houston said. “They can sit in and listen to the questions and answers.”
Potential candidates will not be allowed in the same room as the public and the candidate being interviewed so as to not give them an unfair advantage by hearing the questions and allowing them to compose answers ahead of time.
Donnor told the committee members that they are free to forward any questions they believe the candidates should be asked to him or Human Resources Manager Christiane Crabtrey.
Both Houston and Donnor said that it’s imperative that the questions not be made public before the interview process. Each interview is expected to have a 15-minute time limit
After the interview process is over, the council has the option to enter into executive session to discuss the candidates, however, the vote must be public.
There are currently three aldermen on the council that were chosen through a similar process rather than a traditional election, Judd Hart, Jocelyn Cash and Evelyn Reed.
The council will receive resumes beginning today through Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. Any resumes received after that time will not be accepted. A notice advertising the position will be placed in The Saline Courier. It will also be advertised on www.bentonar.org and the city’s Facebook page. Residents wishing to apply must live in Benton Ward 1. Resumes can be sent to Crabtrey at email@example.com or dropped off at the Benton Municipal Complex.
Interviews will be held Aug. 19. After the new alderman has been chosen through the interview process, Houston will draft a resolution concerning the appointment. The full city council will then vote on the resolution at its regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 26.