Fort Smith Parks Commission Chairman Resigns [Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.]
(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 12--A longtime Fort Smith parks commissioner resigned Wednesday to pursue engineering work with the city.
During a monthly meeting, Parks Commission Chairman Bobby Aldridge told fellow commissioners he is interested in performing engineering services for projects under the umbrella of the Parks Department.
"It has been brought to my attention that's in conflict with the city's code of ethics," he said. "So I am forced basically to resign from the Parks Commission."
Aldridge, president of Frontier Engineering Inc., was appointed to the commission in 2006.
"As much as I'd love to continue to be a member, I have to think of my family and my people's best interest when it comes time for making money and earning a living," he said.
Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack said the city's business ethics policy is "overly restrictive," even more so than the state, and will soon be reviewed by the Fort Smith Board of Directors, possibly in early October.
"A provision of that policy says the city won't do businesses with any business that's owned by a board, commission or committee member," Gosack said. "That broad restriction appears to be unnecessary. What we're going to look at is asking the Board of Directors to amend that policy."
The proposed change would allow people on those panels to conduct business with the city as long as it was not for the department under which they serve. Aldridge said he's interested in Parks Department projects.
"I'm a sports-field guy," he said. "That's what I focus my engineering firm on -- soccer fields, baseball fields, softball, football and so forth. If you look at our five-year (parks plan), there's an extensive list of projects to be able to participate in. The city is saying if I want to be considered for that work, I have to resign."
The city's current code of ethics, Aldridge added, presents a potential problem for other members of various boards and commissions.
"If you go through the list of commission members that perform work or services for the city of Fort Smith, there really is, on every single board or commission, somebody who in a direct way, or even in an indirect way, receives financial gain from a city department," he said. "They are going to have to address that citywide."
Aldridge said he was asked to perform services for a design firm involved in a Parks Department project.
"The project that brought this to light was the Ben Geren ballfield project," he said.
Gosack said Aldridge's potential conflict of interest was recently brought to the city's attention.
"That's when we realized that we had a much more substantial problem than this isolated incident," he said. "We have several other architects and engineers who serve on different commissions. We need their service on some of those boards. If those architects can never do business with the city, we'd have a hard time getting architects to serve."
Aldridge said he was proud of the Parks Department's progress during his tenure on the commission.
"Parks are essential," he said. "To quote former Mayor (Ray) Baker, 'Life is worth living in Fort Smith.' The reality is it's better when you have green space, when you have parks and recreation facilities."
Fellow commission members wished Aldridge luck before he adjourned his final meeting.
"We're going to miss you," Commissioner Billy Bob Williams said. "You've done a good job, and we appreciate it."
Commissioner Lorie Robertson was elected to replace Aldridge as chairperson.
(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)
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