Almost two weeks after Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Banks was placed on suspension with pay, Helena-West Helena City Council member Marvin Jarrett questioned Mayor Arnell Willis as to why was such an action taken was despite the city's dire financial situation. Jarrett asked just how long the judicial process was going to take.
“I don't know how long the judicial process is going to take,” commented Willis. “The matter has been handed over to the legal authorities. Because the issue has been handed to the judicial court, we really cannot discuss this matter except in executive session.”
“The question is can we afford this decision at this time,” stated Jarrett.
Councilman Christopher Franklin called the mayor's decision “not right,” because other individuals were placed on suspension without pay.
“I think that we should talk about this,” said Franklin. “We just turned down another incentive pay for our employees and I don't feel that this is right,” he said.
Willis commented that the Constitution states that you are innocent until proven guilty and that the decision was made as according to the rights of every individual protected by the Constitution.
Councilman Larry Brown asked who was put in place as the temporary director pending the outcome of Banks' alleged criminal acts.
Willis reported that at this time David Gibbs is the temporary director under the direction of the mayor and Chief of Staff Alan Martin.
Brown questioned whether Gibbs was employed by the city to which Willis replied, “I have laid out directions and guidelines in a memo within the department. Parks and Recreation will be fine,” said Willis.
Franklin questioned Willis about his knowledge of parks direction or leadership. Councilmember Monica Davis agreed stating, “The council's concern lies with the children and who are supervising them everyday.”
Willis reported that it is business as usual at the Helena Community Center with children participating in activities and carrying on business in an orderly fashion.
Davis asked if the children were being supervised.
“The same familiar faces are working at the center currently,” stated Willis.
Councilman Don Etherly pointed out that that the prosecutor has up to a year from the date that Banks was arrested to file charges.
“If he chooses wait and file charges until that time, he could be waiting on the docket for another four months after that,” said Etherly. “What we're proposing to do is pay someone for possibly a year without them working. Once in court, the allegations involve him performing his job duties for the city, which will should cause a heightened awareness in this room.”
According to Etherly, a reasonable decision should reflect the consideration of that fact that Banks allegedly abused his employment and his disposition on the job.
Page 2 of 2 - “If he is acquitted of these allegations and proven innocent then maybe we can work on something in the future,” said Etherly. “We want to treat our employees fairly across the board, but we've had many who have been sent home for much less, for nothing at all and received no payment and this should be no different. We have no authority.”
Brown voiced his concern about the citizens against this decision and the outcry from many members of the community.
“They just aren't going to take it,” commented Brown.