Hire/fire authority request appears politically dead

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 39 views 

It will take a miraculous change of opinions if Fort Smith City Administrator Dennis Kelly is to achieve his goal of obtaining the hire/fire authority with city department heads.

Presently, city code places the decision to hire and fire city department heads with the Fort Smith Board of Directors.

Kelly first publicly presented his request to shift the hire/fire authority to the city administrator during a May 12 study session. Fort Smith Mayor Ray Baker strongly opposed the attempt, even calling Kelly’s idea “petty stuff.” Kelly formally pushed the request in his “Organization Analysis” released July 10.

City Directors Gary Campbell and Cole Goodman have said they support Kelly’s request, with Goodman saying he could understand Kelly’s desire to have the same control over department heads that the department heads have over their employees.

However, City Directors Bill Maddox, Kevin Settle and Steve Tyler have come out opposing the request. Tyler opposes providing hire/fire authority to the city administrator because he believes the citizens of Fort Smith still possess a raw mistrust of city government.

And now, City Director Don Hutchings has confirmed with The City Wire that he opposes Kelly’s request, meaning that a majority of the seven-person board is now opposed to shifting the hire/fire authority. City Director Andre Good has yet to announce his position on the issue.

Hutchings cited three primary reasons for not supporting the request.
“The current system we have is not broken. It can be adjusted somewhat, but the checks and balances in place are working.”

There is still a lingering effect from the way the past administration handled the near termination of Police Chief Kevin Lindsey. This was the number one issue during my campaign, & it still is a hot button with many good citizens.”

“There is not a public outcry to change the relationship between the City Directors and the Administrator. If one develops, I will be happy to study this issue again.”

However, Hutchings had favorable things to say about Kelly.

“Dennis Kelly is the right man for this important position. He has great plans for the future of Fort Smith. Each time I talk with him, I respect him more,” Hutchings stated in his note to The City Wire.