City Administrator Scott Collins began his presentation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during Saturday’s 2021 Strategic Planning Session by reviewing past audit findings and assuring the board of his plans to address each shortcoming.
“The last few meetings have not been the highlight of my 30-year career,” he said, admitting to having applied for another job. However, when other opportunities came his way, he said Fayetteville is his home, and he chose not to act of them. “I have invested seven and a half years here and I want to retire here. Within the next 12 months, you will see significant changes.”
He also acknowledged that “you hold my career in the palm of your hand,” adding, “I want to be your friend… “and I have proposals to make things work.”
More than once, the city administrator reminded the board of his duties and responsibilities as stated in the city charter and outlined by state statutes, which include hiring and firing of personnel.
He then expressed the ‘need’ to add a full-time Administrative Director and a Finance Coordinator to the current staff. The administrative director would serve as Collins’ assistant and “would be equal to all other department heads” but have more authority. He gave each board member a copy of the responsibilities that would come with this position.
“What would you do in place of this work,” Mayor Michael Whisenant asked. “When I read this list of expectations, there’s nothing left for you.”
Alderman Donna Hartman said that the Human Resources Department already performs some of that work. Vice Mayor Danny Bryant said that three-fourths of the list could be marked off, to which Alderman Dorothy Small concurred.
When asked what he would be doing while the administrative director took on some of his responsibilities, he said he would “direct and keep everything on track,” and “make sure all the wheels are turning. The charter requires me to have the final say.”
Apparently, there is reportedly a “lot of loitering” during work hours where employees “aren’t doing their jobs.” The administrative director would be given the responsibility to “take care of that in five minutes” or take the problem to Scott.
When Collins was reminded that “you can’t let that person be a buffer for you,” he said the person would “give another set of eyes and ears” to him and provide “a strong level of professionalism.”
Alderman Small said the level of “undermining” has been and continues to be “astronomical.”
Mayor Whisenant said “money is what brother me; it’s not the position.”
While a name wasn’t brought up during the meeting as to who would be given this position, board members stated they have confidence in this one individual, who is already a city employee. If approved, funds would need to be appropriated for a salary increase.
In his request for a finance coordinator, Collins said that position “will be able to provide so much more to the board,” and that the additional salary and benefits “could be easily absorbed with the increases in revenue we’re getting now.”
“The revenues won’t cover it,” the mayor said. “We’re running out of salaries in the budget,” to which Collins responded: “My job is to recommend.”
Alderman Bryant said that in 2015, there were seven employees “under the roof.” Since then, three fulltime and one part-time position have been added. Currently, four fulltime and one part-time people work in the front office.
“You take over personnel!” Collins snapped at the board, adding he would call State Senator Shane Reeves and Rep. Pat Marsh to come to Fayetteville to make that possible.
“Scott, calling Shane Reeves – that’s not going to happen,” the vice mayor quickly responded. “You’re not going to try to intimidate us.” “I’m not intimidated,” Alderman Small said.
The mayor reminded Collins, “You are our employee. We are not here to attack each other. We have to safeguard the peoples’ money. We trust the employees… we had these audit issues. Going forward, you pitch what you want but at the end of the day we’ll make the final decisions.”
Later, Collins apologized for his “outburst” to the board. “That was a ridiculous comment I made to the board.”