Lee Johnson’s contract.
“The taxpayers have suffered repeated acts of illegal exaction that is not authorized and some that is contrary to Supreme Court of Arkansas’s opinion,” Pitchford alleges in the lawsuit.
Six out of eight councilmembers agreed to tax pay cuts which saved the city $24,000. The city council also removed funding to attend this year’s Municipal League meeting, which trimmed about $6,000 from the budget.
The council also approved requiring employees to pay 25 percent of their insurance premiums. In the past, the city had paid 100 percent of the premium costs.
The cuts resulted in a savings of about $36,000.
Jones also did not hire an assistant. The city already had a part-time administrative assistant/dispatcher position, which was given additional hours.
The city did cash in a $50,000 certificate of deposit to pay its bills for the rest of the year. However, many city council’s statewide pass a supplemental spending measure at the end of the year to pay bills from December and January which are not a part of 2016 budget, and is also included in the Municipal League handbook.
Conner said she did not give Pitchford the tape from the adding machine because that is not something she would normally keep, and did not take minutes at one of the budget meetings because a quorum was not present.
Pitchford also said certain actions by Jones and the failure of the city council to stop her from doing so have also cost the taxpayers money.
He cited Jones’s illegal use of a police vehicle as her personal vehicle which got the city banned from applying for federal justice assistance grants for two years.
“You all should have nipped that in the bud,” Pitchford said. “But you didn’t. You let it go on. We were embarrassed in public.”
Pitchford also said Jones’s decision to fire former Police Chief Tyrone Smith and the council’s failure to reinstate him will cost taxpayers money to defend a lawsuit.
Smith was suspended by Jones in August for 30 days pending the outcome of charges against him for harassment. The case has since been dismissed.
Smith claims Jones knew about the case and in reality suspended him because he fired Officer Fitzgerald Couch for sleeping on the job.
A motion to reinstate Smith failed on a 4-3-1 vote.
“We’re going to lose that in court,” Pitchford said.
“And we’re going to be out lots of money on that. You had the authority to nip that in the bud. But you didn’t. I don’t know what reason you didn’t.”
Pitchford said Jones also acted illegally by cutting employee salaries.
Jones on her own demoted road supervisor Nemi Matthews, who was making $14.81 an hour to $10 an hour, and promoted Willie Dyson who was earning $10.25 to $11 an hour.
Jones also reduced the hours and salary of assistant clerk Lawanda Powell from 40 hours to 20 hours and cut her pay from $10.88 to $9 an hour, and also reduced the pay of Gwen Steele in the police department from $11 an hour to $9 an hour.
Jones claimed the cuts would save the city $40,000 and that she did not have to ask the council’s approval to amend the budget to reflect the changes.
“That was something you could have nipped in the bud,” Pitchford said. “But you didn’t question it.”
Lastly, Pitchford said Jones also wrongfully terminated
Lee Johnson’s contract.
Johnson was hired for $4,000 to service and maintain the city’s fleet of vehicles, but was subsequently fired by Jones after a new Dodge Charger police car blew an engine rod because it didn’t have oil in it.
“He can not be terminated the way he was terminated because it was an open contract,” Pitchford said.
“We’re going to lose that in court.”
Neither Jones nor any member of the city council had any comment about the lawsuit.
Pitchford said he filed the suit as a class action on behalf of the tax payers of Earle.
“I will see you all in court,” Pitchford said.