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November 24, 2017
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Commission seeks to better communicate mission

By Tia Lyons
This article was published November 3, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

Members of the El Dorado Civil Service Commission are exploring ways to better acquaint themselves with the work that local police and firefighters do and to help the two groups learn more about the commission and its mission.

During a meeting Thursday, commissioners agreed to plan a hamburger lunch with police and firefighters next spring.

Newly-elected Chairman Toddy Pitard also suggested that the commission develop a pamphlet outlining its mission and distribute the pamphlet to new hires.

Police Chief Billy White and Fire Chief Chad Mosby previously said that new hires are briefed on the commission, which is generally responsible for administering civil service exams, personnel policy and rules and regulations for the police and fire departments.

The commission is not involved in day-to-day operations of each department.

“We can have a pamphlet to hand out and inform new-hires about the civil service commission, instead of the chiefs having to explain it,” Pitard said.

Scott Ellen, commissioner and immediate past chairman, favored the idea.

The commission is taking the first steps toward revising its rules and regulations — which, commissioners said, have not been amended in a decade.

Commissioners are looking to the city of Fort Smith as one of their guides. The Fort Smith Civil Service Commission revised its rules and regulations in June.

Pitard also advised commissioners to keep in mind that applicable segments of rules and regulations should be tailored to each department.

“They should be split because, as Chief White pointed out, police and fire are not cookie-cutter,” Pitard said.

White said he and an EPD captain had reviewed existing rules and regulations and a few potential changes.

“Now, it’s just a matter of me sitting down with the fire chief and comparing,” White said.

“We can let the city council know what we did, why we did it, so they can feel good about it, and they can approve it,” Pitard said.

Last month, commissioners also agreed to consider verbiage that spells out the powers and authority of the mayor and city council as they pertain to the civil service commission and the operations of the police and fire departments.

Commissioner Janis Van Hook previously noted that including such language would assist the commission in addressing certain issues, such as one that arose earlier this year when Mayor Frank Hash called for an investigation into comments that were made by Mosby in a series of stories that was published in March in the News-Times.

The stories centered on a reduction in minimum staffing per shift in the EFD — a cost-cutting measure that was taken in response to a $1 million revenue shortfall in the city’s 2017 general fund.

At the time, Mosby explained that the comments led to a misunderstanding regarding public safety and possible scenarios that could occur if additional cuts had to be made.

Commissioners put the issue to rest after several weeks, letters to Hash and a meeting that included the mayor.

On Thursday, commissioners later asked Mosby for clarification on statements he made Wednesday regarding pending retirements for three firefighters.

During an El Dorado City Council Finance Committee meeting, Mosby told city officials that three firefighters are eligible for retirement and could potentially leave the department next year.

Two are seeking other employment, and the third has enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan through Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System (LOPFI), meaning that he could choose to remain with the fire department for up to seven more years or retire at any time

“Like I said yesterday, it’s been my experience that very few fill out the entire term. They’re building that nest egg, and when they see a number, an account balance they like, they leave,” Mosby told civil service commissioners.

“It benefits the city because we can keep them on,” he added.

Mosby said the fire department is nearly fully staffed with 50 uniformed personnel.

The police and fire departments each have slots for 51 uniformed personnel on their employee rosters.

Mosby said he has exhausted the eligibility list of four entry-level candidates that passed civil service exams in October.

White said the police department is fully staffed.

Pitard thanked Ellen for his years of service with the civil service commission.

Ellen, a former city alderman, was appointed to the civil service commission in 2008 and elected as chairman in 2011,

He served in the chairman’s post until Oct. 22 when commissioners held elections and selected Pitard as Ellen’s successor.

Ellen previously said he would step down from the civil service commission at the end of the year.

He was recently appointed to the El Dorado Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Scott Ellen should be honored for his leadership and all the hard work that he’s done,” Pitard said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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