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Reassign Duties of Cave Springs' City Recorder-Treasurer Kimberly Hutcheson

This petition had 214 supporters

This petition requests that the Cave Springs' City Council immediately reassign the duties of City Recorder-Treasurer, Kimberly Hutcheson. Since being elected to office in November 2016, Hutcheson has repeatedly failed to perform her role as Recorder-Treasurer. Our recommendation to the City Council would be to reassign all duties (as defined in the Municipal Accounting Law and other relevant municipal code) to another City employee or an outside contractor/accounting firm.

While we do not believe Hutcheson is solely responsible for the failures of our city leadership, we believe she owns a large portion of responsibility for them, and that her conduct is not fitting for an elected official of our city. While one could and should assign blame for the dysfunction in our city to all of our elected city officials, our concern is the Recorder-Treasurer's elected role does not expire until November 2020, while the Mayor's role expires in 2018, and our Council members are only serving 2 year terms. Additionally, unlike Mayor Lee and the City Council, Hutcheson has not done anything in her time in office to demonstrate any care or concern for the City of Cave Springs or its citizens or that she is even qualified to perform the critical functions of the Recorder-Treasurer role. 

As such, we have also prepared a Petition for Recall and will be asking for the support of registered voters to have Hutcheson permanently removed from office following her duties being reassigned. It is our hope that the City Council will act swiftly to address our concerns and we will not have to pursue additional recall efforts against any other elected officials but we are prepared to do so, if necessary.

To sign this petition to immediately reassign the Recorder-Treasurer's duties, you must be a resident of the City of Cave Springs. To sign the formal Petition for Recall, you must be a resident of the City of Cave Springs and also be registered to vote in Cave Springs.

Summary of Events

Prior to June 2015, Hutcheson served as a Recorder for the City of Cave Springs. In June 2015, Penny Mertes resigned as Treasurer of Cave Springs, and in October 2015, the City Council voted to merge the positions of Recorder and Treasurer and to appoint Hutcheson to that position. It has been alleged that after voting to appoint Hutcheson to the position of Recorder-Treasurer in October 2015, the City Council failed to vote to assign the actual duties of the position to Hutcheson.

On numerous occasions between October 2015 and August 2016, Cave Springs' Mayor Travis Lee accused Hutcheson of failing to perform her duties as Recorder-Treasurer of the city. Hutcheson claimed that she had not been properly assigned the Recorder-Treasurer duties by the City Council when they merged the positions, so she had not actually failed to perform any duties. The disagreement between Mayor Lee and Hutcheson continued between October 2015 and August 2016, over her purported failure to perform the duties of the Recorder-Treasurer role, resulting in a troubled and contentious working relationship between the two.

In August 2016, Mayor Lee discovered that Hutcheson has changed the locks on the door of her office in the Cave Springs' city hall, preventing anyone else from having access to the public office.

In September 2016, the dispute appears to have escalated when Mayor Lee sent Hutcheson home and removed her access to city hall and various city accounting computer systems. Mayor Lee claims to have done so because of Hutcheson's treatment of city employees. Hutcheson was given back access to city hall and the computer systems within a week but continued to allege that Mayor Lee and the City Council were trying to interfere with the performance of her work duties.

The dispute between Mayor Lee and Hutcheson continued through the end of the year and began to reveal that a greater division existed between Mayor Lee and the City Council, which is made up of 6 citizens of Cave Springs, including Randall Noblett, who ran against Lee for Mayor in 2014.

In November 2016, Hutcheson ran unopposed and was elected to a 4 year term as Recorder-Treasurer of the city.

On January 4, 2017, the City Council held a special meeting. During that meeting, the City Council voted to adopt an ordinance clarifying Hutcheson's duties and then voted to terminate 10 city employees. City Attorney Thomas Guarino and Mayor Lee were apparently unaware of the Council's plan to terminate the employees and claimed the terminations were done illegally. It was later discovered that even prior to the special meeting or the Council's vote that night, Hutcheson had already removed the city employees from various city computer systems and taken away their access to the systems and the city hall. On January 5, 2017, Mayor Lee vetoed the council's vote to terminate the city employees. On January 10, 2017, over 200 citizens and interested parties attended the regularly scheduled City Council meeting to protest the termination of the 10 city employees. After a long and contentious meeting, the City Council voted to uphold Mayor Lee's veto of the Council's vote to terminate the city employees.

On February 7, 2017, Hutcheson filed a lawsuit against the City of Cave Springs, Mayor Lee, and various current and former City Council members, alleging the elected officials wouldn't let her do her job. The lawsuit claimed Lee and the council members violated Hutcheson's constitutional rights by punishing her and restricting her ability to do her job. The defendants denied the allegations and on August 15, 2017, Hutcheson's lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice for failure to plead sufficient facts to state a claim against the city or the elected officials.

It has been alleged that the city incurred around $50,000.00 in legal fees to defend the lawsuit filed by Hutcheson. There is also currently a lawsuit against Hutcheson and the City Council, filed by two city employees, alleging that they were retaliated against by Hutcheson and the City Council for supporting Mayor Lee. This lawsuit will likely result in additional legal fees for the city.

A legislative audit of the city was conducted in Spring 2017 by legislative auditor Roger A. Norman, and he delivered his findings on May 10, 2017, to the city. Many issues were highlighted and all of our city officials were found to be in noncompliance with Arkansas State Law over a multitude of subjects. Both the Recorder-Treasurer and the Mayor had 7 separate issues of noncompliance assigned solely to each of them and an additional 10 issues of noncompliance were assigned to the Recorder-Treasurer, Mayor and the City Council collectively, including:
* The Recorder-Treasurer overpaid herself $14,509 in 2016 by increasing her salary without documentation of the City Council approval
* The city overpaid the former Police Chief and another officer $6,993 and $531
* The city provided unauthorized family health insurance to two employees in 2016, with premiums totaling $3,600 and $4,500, respectively
* A city employee was paid a car allowance of $4,800 that was not authorized by the Council
* Disbursements from a benevolent fund were in conflict with public purpose doctrine
* The city commingled General and Street Fund activity
* A number of travel disbursement deficiencies were noted
* A number of payroll deficiencies were noted

The 7 issues of noncompliance assigned solely to the Recorder-Treasurer were:
* Incorrect recording of cash receipts
* Failure to maintain receipt books
* Posting errors
* Failure to maintain an fixed asset listing
* Failure to complete or approve reconciliations for City and Court funds
* Failure to remit timely settlements from the Administration of Justice Fund
* Failure to prepare, publish and post Annual financial statements according to law
* Multiple disbursement deficiencies including classifying things incorrectly, posting things incorrectly, disbursing from incorrect bank accounts, noncompliant disbursement journals, and failure to provide the correct supporting documentation.

On July 21, 2017, Hutcheson agreed to pay a $50 settlement to the Arkansas State Ethics Commission for accepting a $500 legal expense fund donation she never used, according to commission documents. The donation was made to a GoFundMe page that Hutcheson, or a supporter, created to fund her lawsuit against the city and city officials.

On August 3, 2017, Nathan Smith, Benton County Prosecutor, sent a letter to Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police, requesting the state police investigate the City of Cave Springs for possible financial wrongdoing after it was discovered that the city failed to certify its annual millage rate by not submitting a proper millage resolution and as a result the city would lose $391,000.00 out of a $1.7M general fund budget. On August 7, 2017, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring confirmed by ruling that Cave Springs can't collect property taxes for 2017, eliminating nearly $400,000.00 from the city's budget.

On August 16, 2017, it was disclosed that the City of Cave Springs had failed to timely submit its application for federal assistance for storm damage that occurred in the Spring and as a result the city would not receive the $250,000.00 they expected from FEMA.

While there have been many other allegations and accusations made against Hutcheson over the course of the last two years - including her purported failure to come to work for lengthy periods of time and her role in the city being forced to refund millage and the loss of its FEMA funding - this petition is focused on Hutcheson's failure to perform even her basic duties as Recorder-Treasurer, as specified in public documents such as her lawsuit complaint and the state audit findings. It's the opinion of the concerned citizens of Cave Springs that Hutcheson has demonstrated a blatant and willful disregard for the well-being of the City of Cave Springs and the elected leadership role she holds in the city. Hutcheson's failure to perform her duties as Recorder-Treasurer during her first year in office have done nothing but harm the city, impacting the city's finances, growth and reputation, and causing great concern and doubt among its citizens as to whether she is competent to serve as our Recorder-Treasurer.

We should be able to have some faith and trust that our elected officials will perform their duties in accordance with the law, manage our city funds appropriately, act in the best interests of their citizens and protect the business of our city. We no longer have any such faith or trust in Hutcheson as our Recorder-Treasurer and we believe it is time to take a stand as the citizens of Cave Springs to protect our city from any further harm or embarrassment as a result of the destructive and negligent conduct of the past year. We do not believe Hutcheson has or will act in the best interests of our city or in support of the vision we have for our city. We implore the City Council to once and for all put an end to the conflict and dysfunction that has plagued the city for the last year and to start acting in a way that better represents and protects our city, our citizens and our city business.

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