Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission executive director Marilyn Heifner was reinstated Monday after nearly six weeks of paid administrative leave.
The group met Monday afternoon in a closed-door, executive session during a special meeting called by commission chair Maudie Schmitt.
Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act allows the commission to meet in executive sessions to discuss personnel matters.
Following the executive session, the commission voted 4-2 to reinstate Heifner immediately. Commission chair Maudie Schmitt and commissioners Bob Davis, Bill Lyle and Brandon Karn voted in favor of retaining Heifner, while commissioners Lioneld Jordan and Justin Tennant voted against. Commissioner Hannah Mills, who has been out of town and absent from the monthly A&P meetings since December, was also absent from Monday’s meeting.
As a part of the motion to reinstate, which was presented by commissioner Bob Davis, Heifner’s recent five-percent salary increase will be repealed, reducing her pay from $84,000 to $80,000. Also, a letter of reprimand will be placed in Heifner’s personnel file for 12 months.
Heifner was placed on paid leave in February following the outcome of allegations by a local newspaper that she’d violated the Freedom of Information Act in regards the A&P’s possible lease and purchase of the Old Post Office Building.
The newspaper alleged that Heifner repeatedly denied knowledge of a requested counteroffer from the building’s owner and it wasn’t until a reporter submitted a formal letter of request that she finally produced the document.
Heifner told the newspaper although she was initially dishonest with the reporter, she did not believe she violated the law since she’d handed over the document after receiving a formal written request.
Heifner was eventually charged, but pleaded no contest and admitted no legal wrongdoing.
Update: 3/26/12, 4:25 p.m.
In prepared remarks, commissioner Davis made the following statement:
The question I had to answer was pretty simple: Do I as a representative of the citizens of Fayetteville believe the action of the executive director lying to a newspaper reporter about having a document is a cause for termination or do I believe she should be given a second chance? To answer that question, I had to consider many factors. Again, as a representative of the people, one of those factors is considering what type of city Fayetteville is. What are our standards and what do I expect of our leaders? Do I expect honesty? Absolutely. Do I expect high ethics? You bet I do. Do I expect hard work and results? Yes, I do. And do I expect perfection? Well, you see, that’s where I think Fayetteville has proven itself to be a different type of city. A city that understands that in our pursuit of honesty, integrity, ethics and results, we all sometimes fail. We all fall short of perfection. Of course that cannot be used as an excuse to allow someone who is, at their core, honest and ethical, to find comfort. But there are people in positions of leadership in this city who have made serious and very public mistakes. People who have stolen money from taxpayers and been allowed to cover up, people who have taken things that were not theirs to take, and we as a city have determined that those people were not beyond being given a second chance. In fact, considering some of our city’s most visible and prominent leaders, you could say that Fayetteville is a city of second chances. Why have we given them second chances? It’s not because we’ve excused what they did. It’s not because we condone what they did. It’s because we believe in redemption and we believe in second chances. In Fayetteville, we believe in giving people a second chance when they admit their mistakes and are determined to learn from them and not repeat them. It’s because of that belief that I’m willing to give the executive director a second chance. She has admitted to lying, she has expressed remorse and she has assured me that if given another chance, she will not disappoint me or the people of Fayetteville. I believe her, therefore I believe we should not be terminative, but that she should be given a second chance.
Following the meeting, commissioners Karn, Lyle, Tennant and Jordan left the Town Center.
Bob Davis and commission chair Maudie Schmitt stuck around to offer comments.
Davis said he’s spoken with 20 to 30 constituents regarding the matter, both through email and on the street, none of who believed Heifner should be fired.
Commission chair Maudie Schmitt echoed Davis’ statement. “We just felt that she’s done a great job for many years and that she deserves a second chance,” said Schmitt.
Calls for comments from Tennant and Jordan were both unsuccessful Monday afternoon.