by Max Brantley
You heard about it here first a couple of nights ago. Now the rumor is official. Bryant Mayor Jill "Republican" Dabbs tonight appointed State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb as interim city attorney. Dabbs fired the previous city attorney, Nga Mahfouz, last week. (sorry, forced her resignation.) The mayor gave no reason for the ouster of a successful official who came to the city after municipal league experience.
Shelli Russell reports on Mysaline.com that Webb accepted — how nice of him — pay of $65,000 a year for 60 to 90 days. That means roughly $5,400 a month or $10,000 to $15,000 for Webb. The mayor said Webb will not be in the office 8-5 for that money. No, course not. He'll be on KNUT (ARN) or doing other Republican mouthpiece work for which he is paid $90,000 a year. He will, of course, be continuing the extermination of political opposition in Saline County. He has experience in other areas of the law. Doing a little probate work for elderly ladies. Or straightening up personal foreclosure issues.
"So you appointed him as city attorney?" Council member Brenda Miller asked. "He will be complying with our job description and will be our full-time attorney and be available to the staff and the council on an eight to five basis?"
"He will be available to us anytime by phone or email. He will be in the office a lot," Dabbs responded.
Another Council member, Chris Tipton, asked how long Dabbs expected the interim period to last ("30 to 90 days") and when the job would be posted ("soon").
This one is hard to figure, except to the extent it signals more party-style discipline against those who dissent against Dabbs. But dissent continues apace. The Council tonight voted to reinstate Finance Director Gary Hollis, who was forced to resign by Dabbs last week. The announcement had mixed results among attendees—it was met with a partial standing ovation and a round of boos. Fox news hints that Hollis and Mahfouz were asked to resign because they're undergoing (unwarranted?) criminal investigation. According to sources, Hollis requested his former position, but Mahfouz refused to return under the Dabbs mafia.
More is in store by way of Council disapproval of the mayor's high-handed reign. The Council also defeated a measure to increase the tax on alcohol in Bryant to pay for police cars for Police Chief Mark Kizer's force. According to Hamid Pezeshk, owner of Luigi's Pizza, only seven businesses serve alcohol in Bryant, and the numbers don't add up. "Last meeting I asked the mayor what the total sales are generated by alcohol. She said two million. I asked where she got that number, and she had to think about it, and then she said, 'the city.' " But Pezeshk said that he's spent hours on the phone with Alcoholic Beverage Control, which claims the numbers are between $700,000 and $800,000.
"Even if this tax passes, it’ll be at most $40,000 extra revenue for the city a year, not $100,000. We found out last meeting that they’re planning on purchasing 33 new Tahoes at $40,000 each, which brings payments up to $300,000 a year for four years," he said.
Mayor Dabbs seems to enjoy the support of the police and fire departments. Daniel Weger, president of the local firefighters union, circulated a statement to press: "Mayor Dabbs has had to make tough decisions...but it is our belief that she is doing what is best for this city."
There was a large presence of police and firefighters at the meeting. The police walked out en masse after the fleet issue was temporarily tabled, so that the Council can explore more affordable options and figure out budget measures.
Time out for a Bryant political incest primer: Chief Kizer (who got his job from Dabbs) is a Saline JP with Dabbs' husband, Allan, a chiropractor. Kizer's wife, Heather "Republican" Kizer, ran for office (city clerk) with Dabbs and both went to court to get their names listed on the ballot as "Republican," lest anybody be unclear about how partisan they planned to be in the non-partisan city offices. In the first month in office, Dabbs and Kizer nabbed illegal pay raises (even a Republican prosecutor said the raises were dubious) and Dabbs was cited by the state Ethics Commission for a variety of ethical miscues.
The fun clearly has only just begun for the Bryant Barracudas (also the name of the swim team on which Dabbs' daughter has swum and which the mayor targeted for a little city help at the municipal pool early in her tenure.)
Can Arkansas mayors be recalled? Or do people in Bryant like this kind of leadership?
Note to Bryant dissidents: As city attorney, Webb enjoys no attorney-client protection under the FOI law. You may request his documents, e-mails and other communications with Da Mayor.