Fort Smith city administrator, internal auditor to have employment contracts

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 556 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors passed a resolution at its regular Tuesday (Nov. 19) meeting to create contracts for the city administrator and the city’s internal auditor, something those positions have not had in the past.

The resolution authorizes the city attorney and the vice mayor to enter into employment agreement negotiations with the city administrator and the city’s internal auditor, the two city positions that report directly to the board. Both positions are scheduled to review their annual performance evaluation with the board at its Dec. 17 regular meeting. The contract negotiation resolution will allow the city attorney and Director and Vice Mayor Kevin Settle “to negotiate the framework of an employment agreement with the respective employee in advance of that review,” a memo by deputy city administrator Jeff Dingman on the resolution said.

“While the details of the performance reviews would have bearing on the final provisions contained in the documents, the intent is for the framework of the new agreements to be completed in advance so that consideration of approval could happen immediately after the performance reviews if all parties are in agreement and the Board votes to approve the employment agreements,” the memo said.

This is a change to the way both positions have operated, which was with employment at will with no written contract.

“In place of that, we are negotiating a new contract. Understand, there is a contract (now), whether written or not. There is an employment arrangement. Someone is cutting a check for them. This will be a written contract with specific terms for one employee in a position,” said Jerry Canfield, city attorney.

Settle asked for the resolution to be placed on the agenda at the Nov. 12 study session. Two directors must request an item be added to an agenda. Director Lavon Morton agreed that the item should be added to the agenda.

“It will allow more stability in the city. As we all know board members change and things change, this will give a sense of security for city and our employees. It assures that our employees are not out there looking for other positions because they are locked in for a certain period of time in their employment contracts, and if they do decide to go somewhere else (there will be) a penalty for leaving early,” Settle said. “We will still be able to hold them accountable for not doing their jobs.”

The original resolution stated one board member would be involved in negotiating the contract without stipulating which it would be. Director Keith Lau (Ward 1) asked that it be amended to be the vice mayor. That amendment passed 5-2 with directors Robyn Dawson and George Catsavis voting against it.

Morton asked for a stipulation to be added that all directors could send their bullet points of most important items to Canfield during the contract process. Canfield reminded the board the contract would need to be approved or rejected by the board, who could also make changes to it. He said all contract notes sent to him by board members as well as the approved contract would be public record.

The board also unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance of up to $110 million in industrial development revenue bonds for the purpose of providing financing for industrial facilities on behalf of Mars Petcare US Inc. and its industrial expansion project to its facility in Chaffee Crossing that added 130 new jobs. This is an economic development incentive allowed by the state, Dingman said.

The city issued an ordinance concerning the tax back program for the project in March 2017.

“The project is complete. Construction is done. They can either ask for this at the end or the beginning of a project. They asked for it at the end. The building has already expanded and jobs were already added,” Dingman said.

The ordinance will allow the company to pay 50% of the normal property tax over a period of 10 years, he said.

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