The Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District board had a confrontational exchange at its most recent board meeting before electing new officers at the end of the meeting.
When minutes from the December meeting were presented for board members to review, Marion County Judge John Massey said there was discussion not included in the minutes.
For instance, he said board members were informed that some funds are restricted and can’t be used, but there are other moneys that should be included in a budget. Board members discussed district director Melinda Caldwell’s contract and the fact that there hasn’t been an update of the contract for several years, not to mention her role in interaction with the board and the connection between the board and receiver.
Massey said he had made a motion to return the portion of electronic waste recycling grant funding to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to allow the agency to distribute it to Carroll County, but that didn’t appear in the minutes.
Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, then board chairman, said meeting minutes aren’t an exact transcription of the meeting and usually only include action taken. But the board voted to have those items added to the minutes, charging Caldwell with getting that information from the audio recording of the December meeting. Approval of minutes was tabled until complete.
Massey also said he wanted a copy of the audio recording of minutes to post on Marion County’s website along with approved minutes.
In discussion of financial statements, Caldwell said not much had changed since the last meeting.
Boone County Justice of the Peace Fred Woehl, serving on the board as a designee for County Judge Robert Hathaway, asked about line items on the profit and loss statement for July through December of 2019. He noted there was a line item for administration services for $1,775 as well as NABORS landfill administration for $7,705. He asked for an explanation of the latter item.
Caldwell said NABORS landfill has been under closure for years and the administration portion was to interact with state agencies, contractors making repairs.
“It includes all the aspects that are required to oversee the permanent closure of NABORS landfill,” Caldwell said.
Woehl asked who received those funds and Caldwell said she was paid for those responsibilities.
“Isn’t that part of your contract?” Woehl asked Caldwell.
Caldwell said it was not. She said that when she became director there was a full staff at the landfill and office. After the landfill was closed, that staff was let go and she was appointed to fill those roles.
“Who appointed you?” Woehl asked.
Caldwell said the receiver overseeing repayment of bond holders after the board defaulted on bonds was aware that the most important matter in front of the district was the permanent closure of the landfill and that a contact person would be necessary. She was appointed through Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s acceptance of the receiver’s report to the court.
“So, you’re saying that the judge appointed you to do this, but we as the board, the manager of the district had no say so in that?” Woehl asked.
Caldwell said that was the case. Pendergrass added that it was the same scenario in the order that the district pay the receiver’s expenses as well.
Woehl said the $30,000 paid to Via Recycling, the company Caldwell owns, for the contract to run the district should cover all the other duties she performed with the landfill.
Caldwell said she replaced the full staff at the landfill and office. Board attorney John Verkamp said Caldwell’s original contracted duties didn’t include anything with NABORS landfill. The board’s elected officers have approved additional payments for her duties in the landfill closure.
Pendergrass said he thought it ironic that those payments would be questioned when it cost more than that when landfill and office staff were on board, and that legal fees for the receiver were about $40,000 for the same time frame.
Verkamp added that administrative costs for the Ozark Mountain district are less than those of other solid waste districts in the state.
Massey moved to go into executive session to “get this worked out,” but Pendergrass said there are no personnel issues to be discussed. Verkamp added that the contact in question is with Via, an entity, and not an individual person. That contract also includes a clause that it would automatically renew unless revoked, which has never happened, he said.
There was no action on Massey’s motion.
Bull Shoals Mayor David Nixon said he recognized the fact that the additional duties should be compensated for, but he felt it would be up to the board as oversight to set that level of compensation.
“You would think,” Mayor Jerry Jackson said. Woehl echoed the comment.
Verkamp said the court ordered the level of compensation through approval of the receiver’s report.
Nixon suggested that Caldwell share a break-out sheet of total expenses for which she is compensated and she said it is always available.
“Well,” Woehl told Caldwell, “that’s the thing that bothers me. You always say that, but if I want to talk to you about something, I want everybody to hear it. I don’t want to come to you privately and ask you why this happens. That’s why I bring everything up. And you are very quick to say that.”
“Why would you want to do that?” Pendergrass asked.
“Because everybody would have the same question,” Woehl said. “We’ve been asking the same thing over and over. Since I’ve been on this board, I have constantly asked these questions and I have been pushed away, pushed away.”
“I’ve offered you five times…” Caldwell said.
“To come to you privately,” Woehl said. “I don’t want it privately. This is a public function.”
“Well, if you have personal, individual questions, that is, I think, your responsibility to like get the clarity on it, then you won’t have to ask the questions time and time again,” Caldwell said.
“You tell me something, you tell him something else and you tell him something else,” Woehl said. “You have told me over and over again that we have no say so in you at all. And that’s not true.”
Pendergrass interrupted, asking that the board move on with the financial report. Woehl moved to table approval of financials “until we can solve the problems that we have.” Gassville Mayor Jeff Braim cast the sole “no” voted against the motion.”
The board then voted to elect Woehl as the new chairman of the board. Pendergrass had asked if a designee could serve as chairman and Verkamp said the statutes don’t address that matter. Harness was elected vice chairman and Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams, who was absent that day, was elected secretary.