CAPC names Rambo interim director

Friday, February 28, 2020

By Samantha Jones

Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission has an interim director, but the decision didn’t come without debate.

At a special called meeting on Monday, Feb. 24, the commission met in executive session for approximately 44 minutes before voting to appoint CAPC publicist Gina Rambo interim director.

The commission voted earlier this month to move former executive director Lacey Ekberg from a full-time position as a city employee to a 90-day agreement as an independent contractor. Ekberg will be paid $7,500 a month and is not eligible for city benefits. The arrangement with Ekberg will be reviewed after 90 days and may be extended, although that is not guaranteed.

Ekberg and CAPC chairwoman Carol Wright signed the 90-day contract Friday, Feb. 14. An employee termination form indicates that Ekberg’s final day as a city employee was Feb. 14, and her separation is classified as a layoff.

On Monday, Wright called the meeting to order at noon, asking if someone would make a motion to go into executive session. Commissioner James DeVito made that motion, and commissioner Terry McClung raised his hand to ask a question.

“What’s it for?” McClung asked.

“It’s for management –– sorry, it’s for CAPC management including interim going forward,” Wright said.

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act outlines specific guidelines for public bodies meeting in executive session.

“(E)xecutive sessions will be permitted only for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, or resignation of any public officer or employee,” the act says, with the only exception being for matters related to the security of a public water system or utility system. “The specific purpose of the executive session shall be announced in public before going into executive session.”

When the commissioners came out of executive session, DeVito asked commissioner Bobbie Foster if she would repeat her motion.

“I just want to get this procedure right,” DeVito said, “because of this guy sitting over here in the chair.”

Carroll County Newspapers managing editor Scott Loftis was the only person sitting in a chair at the time DeVito made that statement.

The Carroll County News and the Lovely County Citizen, sister newspapers published by Carroll County Newspapers, reported recently that the CAPC failed to declare a specific purpose for an executive session during a meeting on Jan. 22. The newspapers also recently reported that Ekberg’s hiring in July 2019 was never approved in open session.

After DeVito asked Foster to state her motion, Wright announced that the commission was back in special session, saying the executive session was still open. Foster moved to elect Gina Rambo interim director and Wright asked the commissioners to vote by raising their hands. Foster, DeVito and Jeff Carter voted to appoint Rambo to the position. Wright then asked how many commissioners were in favor of appointing finance director Rick Bright to the position.

“That wasn’t the motion,” commissioner Susan Harman said.

“Oh, yeah,” Wright said. “How many are in favor of Gina becoming our executive director? How many are opposed?”

Harman, McClung and Greg Moon voted against the motion, causing a tie vote.

“I break the tie,” Wright said. “Gina –– I vote for Gina. So Gina will be our interim director going forward.”

Wright then asked for a motion to close the executive session.

The FOIA stipulates that decisions reached in executive session must be ratified by vote in a public session.

“No resolution, ordinance, rule, contract, regulation, or motion considered or arrived at in executive session will be legal unless, following the executive session, the public body reconvenes in public session and presents and votes on the resolution, ordinance, rule, contract, regulation, or motion,” the act says.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at The Auditorium.

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