Alderman Holcomb, essentially summing up the situation in Pine Bluff -- it appears its breaking its own laws.
"We would not want to continue down this path," City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott told the City Council at Tuesday night's meeting.
First-term Mayor Debe Hollingsworth fired Pine Bluff's police chief, and hired Jeff Hubanks as interim. Hubanks, however, does not live within Pine Bluff city limits.
Hadden-Scott explained to council members that in her legal opinion two ordinances guiding the hiring of city employees do not conflict.
One requires administrators and department heads to live inside the city limits. That ordinance was passed in 2000.
A second ordinance was passed in 2002, which excludes "uniformed" police officers from having to meet the residency requirement.
According to Hadden-Scott, the legal interpretation of the ordinances would place an Interim Police Chief in an "administrative" position and not falling into a "uniformed" classification because of the nature of his or her duties. The Municipal League agreed with her opinion.
"I told you this ordinance existed and you could have a problem if the person you hired lived outside city limits," Alderman George Stepps said to Hollingsworth during the meeting. "You did exactly what you wanted to do. You could accept it or leave it, and you left it."
Stepps sponsored a resolution that would require all department heads not meeting the residency requirement to move to Pine Bluff immediately or be terminated. It would have essentially nullified the mayor's hire if Hubanks hadn't agreed to move into Pine Bluff.
"We've been breaking our own city laws since 2007 in the previous administration," Hollingsworth said. "I was following the practice and customs that we have allowed to go on in the city in hiring for other positions."
But it would also cost others hired by former Mayor Carl Redus, in violation of city ordinance, their jobs if they don't move into the city as well.
"There will be four people who lose their jobs," Hollingsworth told the council in discussion of the resolution.
The council vote was split on the issue.
"Once something wrong is done, you can't change the law to fit to fix it," said Alderwoman Thelma Walker, who ultimately voted for the resolution. "Redus is not here, probably because he did things like this during his administration. We can't do anything about him, but we need to make this right and follow the law."
"It doesn't look right for us to jump on this now when we didn't back then," Alderman Bill Brumett countered. "I backed Redus' hires before on his selection committee because I believed he was hiring the most qualified person, even if they didn't live in the city."
The divid among the council, shown in community comments as well.
"We need to follow that law and do what's right," said one member of the public. "If we have specific laws on the books we should follow those."
"When we have two conflicting laws, if the laws are conflicting -- the people are conflicted," another added.
"If the mayor does wrong, the City Council should have the guts to stand up and point that out to the mayor," said another member of the crowd.
"The newest ordinance should prevail, not the outdated ones," another member of the public countered.
Stepps resolution ultimately failed in a 4-4 vote. Because there were not a majority of ayes, the measure passed, though Hollingsworth was willing to vote the resolution down.
"I think it was clearly a win," Hollingsworth said. "It allows us to go back to the drawing board with the two laws. It gives us a little more time to rethink and do what's right."
In the meeting Hollingsworth said repeatedly that the "law needs to be amended or repealed" requiring residency for department heads.
"In this day and age commuting is just a way of life," she said. "I don't want to see us as a city get locked into not being able to hire the most qualified candidates because of residency."
The issue has been debated for three weeks now, in multiple meetings and executive sessions. While Alderman Wayne Easterly mentioned that he intended to sponsor an ordinance to amend and/or combine the two the mayor considers at odds, that ordinance has yet to be drafted.
Ultimately, there were those on the council he opted not to vote for the resolution because of those aside from the Interim Chief who would face losing their jobs. But they had a message for the mayor and other members of the council.
"Two wrongs don't make a right. And no one wins if we don't handle this correctly," Alderman Holcomb said. "As long as we keep playing this game we going to be running in circles."
As of now, the city is still in violation of its own laws, and Hadden-Scott could not see a reason for the city to be sued for continuing that practice.