Lucien Gillham, attorney for Danny Steele in an FOI lawsuit against Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs, reports more documents detailing complaints about the mayor were dislodged in a hearing today before Circuit Judge Grisham Phillips in Benton.
Steele had asked for all complaints against city employees. He got only a formal complaint by Parks Director Chris Treat. Dabbs argued that complaints had to be written and had to result in city action to qualify as a “complaint” disclosable under the FOI. City Attorney Chris Madison said he didn’t view the documents as complaints, though they did result in a discussion of issues.
According to Gillham, the judge ordered the city to produce documents from a former human resources director and the finance director. But he said a statement by an assistant to the parks director about an IT contractor didn’t qualify. Charlotte Rue, the HR employee, talked of a “hostile work environment” and “mutual disrespect, tension and discomfort” between her and Dabbs. Joy Black, the finance director, wrote after a meeting with Dabbs and an IT contractor:
I need you to communicate that yelling at me or any employees in an official meeting is inappropriate and will not be tolerated in the future… I do not feel asking a contractor to have meetings without yelling is an unreasonable request.
Testimony included that from Council member Brenda Williams who said she’d requested complaints from the mayor Oct. 8 and still had received nothing in response, including Treat’s complaint, which included unhappiness about how the mayor responded to rental of a city facility for a dance at which women were photographed twerking. The mayor thought it “pornographic.”
Gillham said the judge delayed a decision on injunctive relief or attorney fees so as to avoid having an impact on the mayoral election, for which voting will be completed Tuesday. Gillham said he had no objection to that.
Here are the documents released today. Gillham highlighted a paragraph in the statement by the former HR director Charlotte Rue. It’s perhaps indicative of Dabbs’ approach to transparency. Chris Madison is city attorney and answers to Dabbs.
Council member Allen Scott is opposing Dabbs’ bid for a third term.