KATV Tweets that Dennis Edwards has resigned, effective immediately, as finance director in Bryant.
I mentioned over the weekend that financial troubles were bubbling again in Bryant, where Mayor Jill “Republican” Dabbs’ administration has been making waves since her self-directed pay raise at the very beginning.
Alderman Randy Cox circulated a request for a special council meeting Thursday to among others, get answers to questions about when the council will get monthly financial reports for the last four months of 2013; the reasons for cashing of a $1 million certificate of deposit before its maturity date, without council notification; a discussion of IT issues; establishing a procedure for purchasing property and services; training and travel expenses, and dates and times of council meetings.
Former Alderman Danny Steele says he’s been told the CD was cashed, on orders of the mayor, to cover payment for police vehicles and fire department air packs that the mayor and police forgot to include in the 2013 budget. He said he’d been told it was the mayor’s decision not to notify the council. I’ve sent her a question about all this. If there isn’t enough aldermanic interest in a special meeting for Thursday, the Council won’t meet until Jan. 21. (Correction: I failed in original post to identify Steele as a former alderman)
Dabbs didn’t get back to me, but Mysaline.com covered her news conference at which she essentially blamed problems on the City Council. She said Edwards had been pesterd by FOI requests and “gotcha” rumors. She said she hoped she could talk Edwards into returning. She took no questions and didn’t address the reported early redemption of a $1 million CD.
UPDATE: The mayor did provide her statement in response to an FOI request, which is on the jump. Also, City Attorney Chris Madison provides an explanation for financial transfers, apparently made to shuffle money so that money was spent from the account specified by an equipment purchase ordinance. Some confusion remains about the CD. It does appear that the CD was sold to square accounts by the end of the year, but it’s unclear at what stage of the term the CD was cashed and whether any interest was lost as a result. Madison said he’d inquire. Madison said he’d met with the mayor and Edwards over the transactions and disputes the scuttlebutt reported by Steele that the mayor had told Edwards not to inform the council. He said Edwards was prepared to discuss it fully.
CITY ATTORNEY CHRIS MADISON
In regards to the CD, it was a matter of moving cash around to cover council approved expenses, including the Police Vehicle fleet payment and two new Fire Department Fire Truck payments. Council approved the expenditures through the applicable ordinances approving the loans for those payments.
The Finance Director is empowered to: “Oversee and direct treasury, budgeting, audit preparation, tax reporting, accounting, purchasing, insurance, and long-range financial forecasting and planning. He/She directs, oversees, monitors procedure for the issuance of all bonds, including compliance with statutory restrictions and proper record keeping; interacts as necessary with Bond Counsel in preparation of document required for the issuance of bonds.” (see attache Job Description for Director of Finance attached hereto.)
It was discovered that the payments were made from designated tax accounts by the prior finance director, and while allowable, the ordinance approving the loan specifically called for the payments to come from General. The fiscal year ends with the Calendar year, so the cash corrections had to be made prior to year end. That is my understanding of the circumstances, given my prior conversations with Mr. Edwards and Bond Counsel and confirming with current finance department staff.
In short, it was to correct the books and have the proper account charged for what Council had approved.
City Attorney – City of BryantMAYOR DABB’S STATEMENT:
With great sadness, I am announcing today that Dennis Edwards has resigned, effective immediately, as the Finance Director for the City of Bryant.
I have not been pleased with the operation of the finance department for the city of Bryant since I took office, until this fall when I hired Mr. Edwards. I had no doubt he would provide the financial leadership a city the size of Bryant needs in order to have a stable, reliable, trustworthy finance department. I had the utmost confidence in his ability to advise me, the council, and department heads as we all work together to best meet the needs of the city and plan for our future.
Mr. Edwards was leading the financial team out of the woods following a poorly executed software platform change and multiple errors. He made it very clear to me and the Council that he would not render any financial reports for 2013 until he and his team had the opportunity to review, correct, reconcile, and produce reports that were an exact
depiction of what took place financially throughout every city department in 2013.
During Mr. Edwards first three weeks on the job, the some members of Council issued a barrage of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests on his department, hindering the departments ability to function, and he pleaded with them to cease and desist these unnecessary and cumbersome requests to allow him time to get his arms around what
needed to be done to render sound financial reports, as well as prepare a budget proposal for 2014.
Mr. Edwards continued to update them at regular meetings as to his progress and findings, and met with them as they often requested. Council members continued to pummel him with more questions, and “gotcha” rumors began to surface last week.
The unrelenting determination of a few Council members to cast a negative political spotlight on me continues to catch good employees like Dennis Edwards in the crosshairs, who cannot reconcile their desire to serve with the compromising of their reputations and personal integrity. Rather than endure such losses, they leave public service and cities like Bryant are the worse for it.
Over the past three years, I have witnessed a number of good employees with the City of Bryant decide it’s just not worth the headache. Employees have been harassed, called continually at work and sometimes at home and after hours by council members, embarrassed publicly at meetings, and forced to face the press following allegations by
The loss of any good employee for such trivial reasons is shameful, but to lose someone of Mr. Edwards’ integrity, dedication and competence is an outrage. He left the City in better shape than he found it, and I would hire him back immediately on a permanent basis without hesitation. At the very least, I would be grateful if he remained until a replacement could be found. While he may not be open to either of these possibilities, I intend to approach him and ask that he reconsider his decision.
My responsibility to the citizens of Bryant today, as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow, is to continue to move the city forward. In light of this setback, I have contacted three major accounting firms that contract with municipalities and asked for their assistance in finalizing the financial statements for 2013, and to assist our Council in passing a budget before the February 1st deadline. Each firm is currently checking their availability and resources to help us on such short notice.
The Finance Department staff that Mr. Edwards leaves behind has my unconditional support, and I pledge to them that I will do my level best to either encourage Mr. Edwards to return or secure them a director that will continue to lead them as well as Mr. Edwards did. I wish only the very best to Mr. Edwards and his family, and thank him for his service. I would also take this opportunity to thank the people of Bryant for your continued support and confidence you have placed in me. I will always put you first.