Earle Mayor has to park car during off hours

Council looks to curtail heavy non-business vehicle usage

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

Earle Mayor Carolyn Jones will have to park her city car at city hall at the end of each business day unless she can prove it is being used for official business. The city council voted to 6-1 to enforce a city policy that requires city owned vehicles be used for official business only. The crackdown came after the council was shown pictures of Jones’s city owned vehicle parked at Southland Park on four separate occasions. “That is costing taxpayers money,” said Councilman Kenneth Cross, who made the motion to park the car. “Going to the dog track at night, I don’t think that is any type of city business.” The city bought Jones a 2010 Dodge Charger for $13,096 after she was cited by Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration for misusing a vehicle intended for the police department which was purchased with federal Justice Assistance Grant money. Earle received the JAG grant in 2012 to replace a 13 year-old police car which had 158,000 miles on it. Former Mayor Otis Davis had the vehicle striped with police markings shortly before leaving office, but Jones had the decals removed and used it as her personal vehicle when she took office in Jan. 2015. Jones complained that she was being treated unfairly because Davis had also driven the vehicle for personal use, and that all previous mayors had been given a city owned vehicle to use. Earle has been banned from applying for JAG grants for the next two years as a result of Jones using the police vehicle. Cross pointed out that the city already has a policy limiting the use of city vehicles to official business. According to the city handbook, “the use of city vehicles shall be restricted to city business purposes only.” “That’s the handbook,” Cross said. “That was done before I even got here. This is the handbook we are going by now and this is the one that should be enforced. City business purposes only. Going to Southland is not official city business.” Resident Will Cheers, who spoke during public comment, said that Jones voted in favor of parking city cars at the end of the day when she was on the city council.“But since she has been mayor, she’s been going to the dog track,” Cheers said. “Earle is in trouble. I’m asking on behalf of the citizens of Earle to vote to park that car at city hall after hours.” Cross’s motion to enforce the policy passed 6-1 with Councilman Jesse Selvy casting the lone no vote. Councilman Bobby Luckett was not at the meeting. Jones had canceled the meeting earlier in the day but was overridden after four councilmembers decided to hold the meeting as scheduled without her. Councilman Robert Malone served as Mayor Pro Tem and presided over the meeting. Cross later amended his motion to require that city vehicles only be used from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and that they be parked at city hall when not in use and on weekends unless it is for city business “and she can prove it.” “We’re already in a lot of trouble,” Cross said. “We need to start saving this city.”

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