The Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission will seek guidance from the city of Fort Smith’s personnel director on searching for a new director. Claude Legris is resigning as the commission’s executive director on July 10.
The A&P administers and oversees funds received from the 3% percent Fort Smith lodging tax and promotes tourism to the city.
The commission met Monday (June 29) with the agenda item to be an executive session to discuss filling the vacancy Legris’ retirement would create. When Talk Business & Politics learned the matter was to be discussed in executive session it had a letter from Little Rock attorney Matthew Campbell sent on its behalf. In the letter, Campbell said such a meeting would violate the open-meetings provision of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
“Under the AFOIA, executive sessions at public meetings are allowed only ‘for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, or resignation of any public officer or employee. … (My understanding is that Mr. Legris has already submitted his resignation, so there is no basis for an executive session to “consider” his resignation),” the letter noted. “Likewise, to the extent the AFOIA allows for executive session to ‘considering employment’ of a new director, that only extends to the consideration of a specific person for a position, not for consideration of the process by which applicants will be located, vetted, interviewed, or engage in any other part of the hiring process.”
After this was brought to the attention of the commission, Mayor George McGill, who serves as the chair of the committee, said there would not be an executive session but discussion would continue in an open meeting.
Commissioners thanked Legris for his years of service to the city.
“Appreciate the service you have given our city. You have worked hard, tirelessly,” McGill said. “We need to do everything we can to recognize Claude for the tremendous work he has done for the A&P and the city and for putting Fort Smith on the map.”
McGill said the next step would be to meet with the city’s personnel director to get guidance on the search for a new executive director. The commission has complete authority hiring a new executive director, Commissioner Robyn Dawson noted.
Commissioners discussed whether Carolyn Joyce, group sales travel manager for the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, had experience running the bureau. Legris said she did and had done so prior to his joining the staff. Joyce is a member of the Tourism Hall of Fame of the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism. She is well-known for the establishment of the Fort Smith Visitors Center, where she often greets visitors in character as Miss Laura, and as a spokesperson for Fort Smith.
McGill said he hoped Joyce would think about the possibility of running the convention and visitors bureau in the interim once Legris leaves July 10 before a new executive director is hired. The commission will meet at 3 p.m. July 7 to discuss the search for a new executive director and possibilities for an interim director.