Conflicts in city service | Arkansas Blog

Conflicts in city service

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City Attorney Tom Carpenter has finally issued the opinion sought preceding the election concerning Mark Stodola's coming service as mayor if his law firm continued to hold the contract to represent the Airport Commission. Carpenter's opinion also deals with Ken Richardson, recently elected to Willie Hinton's seat on the Board of Directors. Richardson is deputy director of New Futures for Youth, which has contracts with the city to provide youth services.

Short answer: Both can hold city offices and their private arrangements with the city can continue, though each should recuse from matters before the Board that concern those agencies. Richardson's situation is slightly complicated. If a planned agency reorganization doesn't occur, he might need passage of an ordinance to protect continued city business with New Futures, Carpenter said.

This opinion should have been released long ago, as we've already said, though Carpenter was reluctant to muddy election waters. Its outcome was self-evident.

But, also as we've said before, the legal contract strikes us as a different issue than being an employee of a contracted service agency. The Airport Commission is highly political. Appointments and reappointments are highly sought. The mayor counts for only one vote on the board, but symbolically he wields a great deal of clout, much of which -- in our experience -- occurs outside of public view.

We've said before and we'll say again -- the mayor's law firm shouldn't  handle the work of an appointed, non-voter-accountable, politically charged city agency. Hypothetical problem: Might city employees and directors with objections or criticism be reluctant to step forward on account of the need for the mayor's support elsewhere?

We ran into Stodola a few days ago. He was still mulling the question, though I think he expected an opinion along the lines Carpenter rendered.

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