A&P Commission changes policy on commissioner-related contracts

Shortly before this month’s Advertising and Promotion Commission meeting adjourned, chairman Tim Freeman announced he was moving to Little Rock and would be resigning effective immediately.

Shortly before that, he brought back a policy change he first suggested last fall that addresses a conflict of interest issue regarding commissioner-related contracts.

The two-part addition to the commission by-laws states that 1) no commissioner with any financial interest in commission items shall participate in the discussion or voting of such matters and 2) commission business conducted by a commissioner must be submitted as a competitive bid following full disclosure.

“I don’t want to call out any specific commissioner, but it is my firm belief that if you’re going to do business with the commission and you sit on the commission, that we should at least have an extra check in place,” said Freeman. “I think that we owe it to the taxpayers who pay the HMR tax to ensure for them that their money is being spent as above the board as possible.”

The commission has an insurance contract for the Fayetteville Town Center that provides worker’s compensation and building insurance through Eason Insurance Agency which is operated by Bob Davis, who serves on the commission.

Some residents, including Ward 2 Alderman Matthew Petty, have expressed frustration with the commission’s insurance contract, which has been in place since the Fayetteville Town Center opened in 2001.

Freeman said yesterday that he doesn’t believe anything wrongful has happened but that the commission needs these kinds of guidelines in place. “We need to be proactive,” he said, “and not just for appearance’s sake.”

After Commission Director Marilyn Heifner completed a review of the new policy, Freeman said he thought it was completely reasonable and suggested adopting the procedures immediately.

“It sounds reasonable and normal,” added commissioner Robert Rhoads, who also serves on the Fayetteville City Council.

The rest of the board, including Davis, agreed and unanimously approved the changes.

“I think this is good for the commission and good for our public image and makes us good stewards of the money,” said Freeman.

When reached for comment yesterday, Alderman Petty said he was happy that the changes had been made. “I’ve said before that I thought there were conflicts of interest, so kudos to them for being more transparent.”