Former alderman files ethics complaint against current, former city officials (Updated)

By Jamie Miller

Former Bryant City Council Alderman, Rick Meyer, has formally filed an ethics complaint through the Arkansas Ethics Commission against[more] current Alderman Danny Steele and other current and former city officials.

According to the Arkansas Ethics Commission, “the essential allegation of the complaint is that Mr. Steele, in his capacity as a member of the Bryant City Council, failed to file a Statement of Financial Interest (“SFI”) for calendar year 2010.” The deadline for filing was January 31st, 2011. City Clerk Heather Kizer confirmed with Meyer that, in fact, Steele has not filed his SFI.

It has been determined by the Commission that the complaint meets the requirements set forth in the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, so therefore an investigation is being commenced.

In filing the complaint against Steele, Meyer claimed that Steele has served as an Alderman in two separate periods for approximately 18 years. “He should be aware of the rules, regulations and laws pursuant to public officials,” Meyer said.

Steele claims that he “simply forgot.”

“This is the first time this has happened in 18 years,” Steele said. “January was a busy month, and I just forgot.”

Other city officials being investigated include current Alderman Adrian Henley, former Mayor Larry Mitchell, former City Clerk Brenda Cockerham, and current City Attorney Nga Malfouz. All of the above officials are being explored for the same reason that Steele is, lack of filing a SFI report for 2010.

Meyer stated other reasons for filing the complaint against Steele as well, alleging that, “Mr. Steele has launched an unwarranted vendetta against our newly elected Mayor, Jill Dabbs, charging her with multiple, frivolous ethics complaints, none of which are valid.”

Earlier in the year, Steele filed his own complaint with the Arkansas Ethics Commission against Mayor Dabbs about a pay increase that she gave herself and City Clerk Heather Kizer without the council’s approval. Though a ruling is still pending, an opinion given by the Saline County Prosecutor’s Office said Mayor Dabbs had probably done nothing illegal but simply, showed poor judgment in her actions concerning the raises.

Since being in office, Meyer commented, Mayor Dabbs has “exercised her right under law to determine her own staff,” referring to former Human Resources Director Shayne King, who was fired just two days after Dabbs took office.

Meyer is claiming that King’s dismissal was more reason for Steele’s allegations against Mayor Dabbs. “Steele made multiple efforts on King’s behalf before concocting ethics charges against the Mayor, including attempting to get King reinstated,” he charged. “When that failed, he tried to award her a $9,000 severance package. The Mayor vetoed that award and the Council upheld the Mayor’s veto, which further enraged Steele.”

Meyer’s allegations are currently being investigated and a judgment is yet to be rendered.

“Making this complaint was absolutely necessary, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because Steele has done so much wrong. It’s time for him to be held accountable,” Meyer said.

Since the complaint was filled with AEC, Steele has turned his Statement of Financial Interest in to the City Clerk and the AEC. He is awaiting a response from the AEC in regards to their decision on penalty.

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