Scott Loftis

From the Editor

Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com


Clean up the CAPC

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

One of the smartest managers I know sums up his management style this way: Hire good people, and get out of their way.

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission seems to have a different mindset: Come onto a public governing body, see some hard-working longtime employees and do everything you can to meddle, interfere, bully, intimidate, threaten and try to run them off.

The chief culprit, of course, is Carol Wright, the CAPC’s former chair who remains on the commission as secretary-recorder. Over the past three weeks, we’ve reported on Wright’s actions as chair, which have included the very questionable handling of the CAPC’s events coordinator position, her efforts to have a fellow commissioner removed and her interactions with CAPC staff.

It’s very likely that Wright’s actions as chair will lead to the whole mess winding up in court. It’s taken significant digging to ferret out some of the information we’ve reported on, but I fear we’ve only scratched the surface. Once the whole mess hits the docket, all the dirty laundry will be out in the open. Then we’ll report on it and Mayor Butch Berry will complain about “negative articles.”

I give a great deal of credit to the CAPC staff. I wouldn’t have lasted a month with the kind of micromanaging and harassment they’ve dealt with, but they’ve stuck it out for a year and a half or more. That tells me they feel compelled to do their best to promote Eureka Springs despite the obstacles constantly placed in front of them.

Wright is no longer chair, but indications are that things haven’t improved over the past few weeks. The dysfunction continues, so much so that the commission decided to strip Gina Rambo’s title of interim director at its Feb. 19 meeting, then terminated her five days later.

That leads to a few obvious questions: Who’s minding the store? Who’s supervising staff? Who’s coordinating with Paradise Advertising and Marketing? Who’s in charge? For the record, who’s in charge is NOT the CAPC chair. The only extra authority vested in that position is the ability to preside over meetings and call a special meeting, no matter what powers Wright — or her successor — mistakenly presumed.

Why do I care so much? Because all of these games — like paying off-duty police officers a minimum of $140 to stand in the Auditorium lobby for a half-hour meeting because Wright felt “threatened” — are being played with public money that could be far better and more appropriately spent.

What’s missing from this entire equation is leadership and professionalism. Wright’s petty personal feuds and her refusal to function in a professional manner have led to a systemic failure of the entire commission.

Berry doesn’t seem inclined to step in and provide any real leadership, either. I wish I had a dollar for every time the mayor has responded to questions about the whole sordid mess with: “It’s up to the commission.”

At some point, somebody has to be the voice of reason. Somebody has to realize that city employees are being abused and that it’s only a matter of time before there will be a reckoning.

Frankly, I don’t understand why the CAPC — whose mission ought to be “advertising and promotion” of the city of Eureka Springs — has become such a source of palace intrigue. What’s the point? What’s the end game? What is Carol Wright trying to accomplish? What does she get if she wins? It beats the heck out of me.

Here’s what needs to happen. Berry needs to ask the city council to remove Wright from the CAPC. Berry has the right to make that request, and the council has the power to follow through on it. The sooner, the better, before a horrific situation gets even worse. In fact, Berry and the council need to take a long, hard look at every single commissioner and determine whether they are serving the city of Eureka Springs or serving their own personal agendas.

The mayor and the council have the power. The question is, will they use that power for the good of the city or will they continue to turn a blind eye?