Mayor Mark Stodola is set to announce Wednesday, just prior to when this issue of the Arkansas Times hits the streets, that the city will keep the War Memorial Pool open until Aug. 14, thanks to private commitments of money. The pool was scheduled to close Aug. 1. The Southwest Little Rock Pool will be extended by one week, to Aug. 7.
Because of the tight 2010 city budget, the pools were originally scheduled to close in mid-July. The city began to have second thoughts once the cuts became generally known. Some city directors had not known that the budget the board approved in December had included the shortened pool schedule — and in a brutally hot summer.
Paying for a mistake
It's been nearly two weeks now and there is still no explanation, from either Secure Arkansas or the secretary of state's office, as to how the anti-immigrant group came up 10,000 signatures short in its effort to qualify for a constitutional amendment that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving certain public benefits.
Secure Arkansas needed 77,468 signatures to place the amendment on the 2010 ballot, but turned in only 67,542. The group signed an affidavit stating they had the required number of signatures (they actually claimed more than 78,000), but continued to collect signatures after the deadline had passed. Had a sufficient number of signatures been submitted, then a validation process would have begun to check each one.
An accounting firm, JPMS Cox of Little Rock, was hired to complete the initial count at a cost of $85 per hour. After 220 billable hours that comes to a total of $18,700 Arkansas taxpayers will have to pay because Secure Arkansas didn't properly count the number of signatures.
Doesn't seem fair to us somehow. Secure Arkansas misrepresented — badly — how many signatures it had gathered. Had it accurately reported the number, there would have been no accounting because the group failed to meet the minimum by deadline.
Chief counsel for the secretary of state's office, Tim Humphries, says they conside the matter to be closed. Sandra McGrew, a spokesman for the secretary of state, says there will be no penalty for the inaccurate representation about signatures.
"I think a situation like this is very unique," McGrew says. "There is nothing in state law that states they have to pay for the count or that penalties will be assessed by the secretary of state's office. I'm being told that there's no memory of anything like this happening in recent years."
No, most petition gatherers can count. And if they don't get enough signatures, they don't turn in their petitions.
Jeannie Burlsworth, founder of Secure Arkansas, continues to refuse to return calls for comment.