By Terrica Hendrix
DIERKS – The issue of the police officers overtime pay was discussed for a lengthy part of the city council meeting in Dierks Monday evening, Sept. 10.
Toward the end of the September council meeting, Dierks Councilman John Sharp asked Mayor Terry Mounts if the council was going to discuss an issue related to an investigation led by the Arkansas State Police into the Dierks Police Department and the city of Dierks.
Sharp held a large envelope up and quietly asked the mayor if it was going to be discussed.
Mounts said that the council would have to go into executive session to discuss those matters because names of specific employees may be brought up.
City Attorney Erin Hunter advised the mayor that the council would not need to go into executive session and that the city was violating fair labor laws. The mayor contended that the council should go into executive session and said that DPD Chief Brian White would need to be in the session. Hunter told the mayor that White could only be present during the executive session if the council requested him.
After a 27-minute executive session, the council returned and the mayor stated that the council “was not going to take any action right now on” overtime pay for the officers “and will be paying the officers any overtime they are working until this investigation is over with.”
The mayor confirmed after the meeting that DPD officers were being pay “a straight” hourly wage – including White. He added that when it came down to officers receiving overtime pay at the time and a half rate, the officers didn’t want that and were fine with being paid a “straight” hourly wage for those overtime hours. “Right now, we’re going to continue to pay them time and a half overtime like we are doing now. Before we make any drastic changes, then we want to wait until this investigation is over. We’ll look at their recommendations and go from there,” the mayor said in reference to the ASP investigation. “The state police investigators requested some information like time sheets from the city. So, they’re going to look at all of that and they’ll either say, ‘everything’s fine’ which we think that’s what they’re going to say or they’re going to have some suggestions on what we need to change or what we need to do. So, that’s why we didn’t want to make any big changes right now in the police department,” the mayor continued. “Some council members were saying that Brian White might need to be on salary, but, there’s no law that says a police chief has to be on salary, so we were looking at that and a few other things…maybe adjusting some pay. But, we aren’t going to do anything until this investigation is over.”
When asked by The Nashville News-Leader reporter if there was an issue of the officers not receiving overtime pay, the mayor said “no, not really. There was an issue of overtime. We do pay overtime, but we’ve been neglecting and paying….” the mayor paused. “The officers don’t want a lot of overtime you know, so, we’ve not paid overtime all through the system, all through the years, you know. It’s been that way for….Brian [White] said it’s been that way since he’s been here for 30-something years.” He added, “you just got an agreement between the police officers and the city – no written agreement or anything like that. It saved the city money and they were happy with it. Brian [White] is set up for 52 hours” as his regular work week “and if he worked 100 hours, he would get paid straight time for those 48 hours. We haven’t been paying time and a half,” the mayor confirmed.
Dierks Police Chief Brian White told the council that the department responded to 16 disturbance calls and 49 complaints for in August. Fire Chief Mike Noel said the fire department responded to 17 calls in August.
The mayor appointed Chase Quinn to fill Debbie Brock’s position on the city council. Quinn was sworn in by the mayor to represent Ward 3, Position 2. Brock resigned on July 13 by letter to the mayor and council.
In other business, the council unanimously approved:
Dierks Police Officer Benny Simmons as the Dierks School District School Resource Officer;
purchase of a Dodge Durango from the Howard County Sheriff’s Department for $3,500. The SUV will be used for the Dierks School District School Resource Officer.
Council members present at the meeting were Roddy Smith, John Sharp, James Sebren, John Hill, and Carol Sharp-Jester, and Quinn.
The meeting adjourned at 6:56 p.m.