The A&P Commission held a tense two-hour special session Thursday, October 12, 2017 to address the complaints filed by Tammy Thompson and Amanda Bowers on behalf of the Gathering of Authors, a local non-profit organization that promotes literacy.
Thompson and Bowers are concerned with issues that arose from the September 11, 2017 meeting when the Commission declined to vote on whether or not additional funds would be distributed to the Gathering of Authors. The Commission allocates revenues from Texarkana, Arkansas’ hotel and restaurant taxes to the City’s tourism and hospitality industries.
Bowers and Thompson are asking for (1) clarification and amendment to the current bylaws, (2) that all laws be applied without discrimination, (3) a public apology be given to the Gathering of Authors, (4) the removal of Commissioner Allen, (5) establish an oversight committee to the A&P Commission.
Prior to the public meeting Thursday evening, Attorney Josh Potter called a private meeting between himself, Bowers, and Thompson to try and mediate the situation prior to the Special Meeting. Bowers and Thompson recorded the discussion.
Attorney Josh Potter claimed , “I think we can attribute the voting after the Sept. 11 as a misinterpretation of the bylaws at the worst.”
Bowers inquired as to who has oversight of the A&P Commission, to which Potter replied, “The only answer i know is to the taxpayers and that’s why all of these meetings are public and noticed.”
Potter claimed it couldn’t hurt to visit with the Gathering of Authors prior to their meeting Thursday evening and question what exactly they want as an outcome from the complaints.
Thompson alleges that Potter and the A&P Commission have flip-flopped on their positions and follow their rules at their discretion, with no oversight.
“I just think we are being fast and loose with who we are applying these bylaws to,” declared Commissioner Dennington at the Special Meeting Thursday night.
Commissioner Joyce Dennington pressed Commissioner Buddy Allen on whether or not the bylaws of the commission are in accordance with the State Laws. Commissioner Dennington fears a lawsuit is imminent following the current issues of Commissioner Allen’s misconduct. She asserts that the laws are very vague and that the commission has unintentionally inconsistently abided by their own rules.
“My understanding is that part of the complaint is that we awarded money with less than a unanimous vote,” declared Dennington. “You very plainly stated, Mr. Potter, that all commissioners had to vote, and that was not the case.”
Commissioner Linda Teeters said, “we all agree that it was a misinterpretation of bylaws, but let’s not point fingers, we are all the Commission. She continued, “my point is that we are trying to fix it and we are addressing it. We are making two amendments to the bylaws and will make more if necessary.”
Commissioner Teeters motioned to amend Section 8 and to constrain the powers of Commissioner Allen prior to any complaints expressed by Bowers and Thompson.
Commissioner Dennington pointed out that the complaint alleges that the commission is in violation of their bylaws. However, according to Attorney Potter, he claims that the amendments to section 8 will correct previous wrongdoings and prevent future issues from occurring.
According to the A&P Commission, Section 8 of the bylaws are to be amended to include the word ‘initial’ to specify which requests for funding will be heard for consideration before the commission.
“The only way someone should come back and ask for money is if there was something that unexpectedly came up after the October deadline. For example , the Mayor held a Mayors Conference. When the opportunity came up it was after the October deadline. She came with a request to A&P to help host this luncheon and because she didn’t know about it ahead of time, yes, she was granted funds for the luncheon. Another example is the Bandit Run and Four States Auto Museum. They found out that the event was coming to town after the deadline, but it was beyond their control,” expressed Commissioner Teeters.
Bowers and Thompson asked Commissioner Allen step down from his position. They pointed to Commissioner Allen’s continuous overstep of power and unethical behavior warrants such action.
The Gathering of Authors are deeply concerned by a particular instance when Commissioner Allen attended a regular meeting by telephone.
“Yes, i was here by telephone, yes, “ said Buddy Allen regarding the September 11th meeting.
Commissioner Linda Teeters emphasized that she brought to the attention the lack of oversight and ambiguity of their bylaws during her first meeting as commissioner in August 30, 2017 meeting.
Commissioner Johnson also informed the A&P Commission in 2015 that he was concerned about the ambiguity in the bylaws for the commission.
Both Sandy Varner and Tim Johnson apologized and expressed their condolences to the Gathering of Authors and to Blair Berry, who spoke at the Sept. 11th meeting, for the behavior of the Commission towards them.
Tyrhonda Henderson broke up the debate and ceased the discussion by requesting the Gathering of Authors explicitly list the complaints they have with the A&P Commission and their Commissioners.
With regard to the Gathering of Authors complaints specifically with Commissioner Allen, an executive session would have to be called if a complaint was filed with Tyrhonda. Any appointment, employment , resignation , demotion, or removal regarding an individual body must be voted on by City Council.
The Gathering of Authors will be on the agenda for the October 19th meeting next week.