Last year the city approved a rate increase for Little Rock Wastewater, and it turns out that part of the money was being used for employee bonuses.
The head of Little Rock Wastewater (LRW) says its employees had gone nearly three years without raises, 50 employees had left and it was time for a raise, but they couldn't afford it.
What they did instead caught city leaders off guard.
Standing in front of a row of skeptical board members, CEO Reggie Corbitt defended a decision to give Little Rock Wastewater employees a one-time bonus.
"I was looking for some way to compensate employees who had struggled through three years with no increase and who had assumed additional responsibilities due to we were down 50 employees, and that's what we did," says Corbitt.
It's not whether employees deserved the extra pay, it's how LRW went about it that rubbed some city directors the wrong way.
"Any particular reason why info wasn't shared with us at that time when we had long dialogue about the rate increase," asked city director Ken Richardson.
The board approved significant rate increases to help pay for court-mandated improvements to the sanitation system, and that's it. But once LRW got the funding boost approved, in July, Corbitt says they voted to dole out what he calls "longevity pay," a one-time $1,250 payment for all 189 employees, totaling over $230,000 in December.
"I'm certainly sympathetic to employees that haven't received raises in a while, but to learn top-paying executives are getting bonuses and this board not knowing about that when we approved the rate increases is unsettling to me," says city director Stacy Hurst.
The board voted to put their dissatisfaction with LRW's actions on the record, and pushed for a full investigation.
A committee is reviewing LRW's "longevity payments," and will give a full report to city leaders Jan. 22.