Contentious Council meeting addresses Hollis, Family Fest, roads

By Jamie Miller

Silence . . . silence was the response to former State Senator Doyle Webb’s request for action against[more] current Bryant City Finance Director Gary Hollis at the meeting of the Bryant City Council on Thursday night.

Webb has stepped in as interim City Attorney for 30 to 90 days pending the hire of a new person for the position. The job has recently been posted and interviews will begin shortly, according to Mayor Jill Dabbs. Webb gave the council an update from the Legal Department regarding some pending cases involving the city. He also voiced his concern about the current employment of Hollis.

At a special city meeting earlier this month, Hollis was released of his duties as Finance Director of the City, but after an executive session by the Mayor and aldermen, the council voted to reinstate him.

On Thursday, Webb brought attention to an ongoing investigation of an issue involving Hollis. In 2010, the City of Bryant began installing a new phone and communications system. The system was being installed by contractor Chris Barnes with what is now referred to as Diversified Communications.

According to Webb, Hollis signed and authorized a payment of $25,000 to Barnes before the work was completed, which was a stipulation of the contract. Shortly after Barnes receive payment, he became unreachable.
According to Mayor Dabbs, when she took office in November of 2010, there was a partially installed phone system that did not work properly and over $50,000 worth of equipment and services that the city had paid for and never received. Dabbs, according to statements, turned to the Legal and Finance departments for direction and was told there was nothing to be done. Therefore, the Mayor contacted the Legislative Audit which resulted in the investigation.

Webb informed the Mayor and Council of Hollis’ recent resistance to cooperate in the investigation. Hollis recently announced his intent to retire in one week. Webb’s request was for the Council to consider taking action to get Hollis out of office early to prevent any possible tampering or destruction of evidence that may be pertinent to the pending investigation. The Council responded with resounding silence but did authorize Webb to move forward with the civil action against former contractor Chris Barnes.

“You’re leaving a fox in the hen house,” Webb said to the Council.

Other issues of the night included public comments regarding the potential routes for Springhill and Raymar road construction projects. Senior Pastor of Family Church Bryant Perry Black was present to speak on behalf of FCB and his congregation regarding the possible purchase of the back acre of FCB’s property.

“We’ve been in the community for 21 and a half years and we are making a major, positive influence on our city,” Black said.

He went on to say that he and the congregation at FCB, of which close to 100 members were present, were opposed to the construction of the road being built on their property.

Other citizens also voiced their opposition to both the Springhill and Raymar road projects.

Those at the meeting seemed to be against the Raymar road proposed route 3 that Jacobs Engineering claims was the most popular choice from their city meetings that were held last year. The council voted to table the issue indefinitely.

James Ballew, Director of Bryant Family Festival was present to discuss some issues over missing invoices from the 2011 festival.
Ballew was adamant in expressing how he felt he has been “attacked” by three aldermen in the past months — Brenda Miller, Danny Steele and Adrian Henley.

It was noted that the city’s $35,000 financial support helped put on the impressive fireworks display for at the festival along with the hot air balloon rides, and to bring in the national recording artists that were the musical entertainment.

Miller said it was brought to her attention by citizens of Bryant that there was alcohol present at the park during the event. When Ballew was asked to respond to the matter he stated that he fulfills all event riders that the musical acts require.

Miller then referred to the contract that Ballew signed stating there was no alcohol allowed on the Bishop Park premises. He responded that the alcohol was at the house that he and his family renovated behind the park at no cost to the city and that it was not out in the public during the three-day event. He claimed that was his interpretation of the rule regarding alcohol in the park.

Mayor Dabbs asked Ballew if he had ever been read or presented with the Park Use agreement and his response was “no.”

The council took no action on the matter despite Ballew’s request for the future festival to be voted on.

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