Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin has done something he hadn’t in the more than 10 years he served as the city’s mayor – he issued his first veto. Citing conflicts with state law, Perrin informed city council members that he is not signing an ordinance passed Feb. 3 that would require council members to participate in the selection of professional services contracts. Perrin said he took the extraordinary step based on overwhelming legal counsel.
“I have not been just advised, but warned, from some of the best legal minds who specialize in Arkansas city government, that this ordinance is not in the best interest of the city of Jonesboro,” Perrin said. “Our city of Jonesboro and Arkansas Municipal League attorneys strongly advise me to veto this ordinance, based on the vulnerability to lawsuits as it conflicts an executive task with a legislative body.”
Ordinance-18-060 was approved by a 7-5 vote. State law 14-43-504 allows mayors in cities of the first class to veto a city council vote within five days, excluding Sunday. A two-thirds vote of the council body is required to override the veto.
The veto letter states the ordinance violates state law in multiple sections (7 and 11-13) by putting council members, who approve city contracts, in the actual selection process in addition to their role in approving the selection. It removes state-mandated authority of the mayor to negotiate contracts.
Perrin said the ordinance, as written, will “take away administrative authority from our professional staff and give to the Council’s Public Works Committee, a legislative body. That committee already has oversight power on such matters as the selection of professional services. The ordinance would eliminate the check-and-balance system built into our government.”
In a letter to Perrin, City Attorney Carol Duncan wrote that “this ordinance would require city employees, under direction of the mayor, to violate state law… Should you decide to exercise your power of veto, I believe there are valid legal reasons to do so.”
Perrin said he respects the position of some council members who desire a better law than any existing city ordinance for the selection process of professional services.
“Together we will work to create an ordinance that will replace the existing ordinance, and not only will it guarantee transparency and fairness, it will be in accordance with state law,” he said.