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Making headlines-again


LITTLE ROCK:; If Fayetteville readers missed the fine reporting last week by Tony Hernandez and Joel Walsh of the Northwest Arkansas Times (detailing the chronic financial woes of Fayetteville’s chief of staff) they overlooked a relevant story.

Donald A. Marr, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s administrative right hand, has been laboring in recent years under multiple lawsuits and government liens detailing personal debts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

His financial challenges appear to have begun in the aftermath of two business failures at least two years before Jordan assumed office in 2009. One of Jordan’s first acts as a new mayor was to name his campaign chairman, Marr, as his chief of staff.

The incoming administration also chose to revamp the city’s previous administrative flow chart (with no chief of staff), to accommodate that title answerable only to the mayor. The new chart placed Marr at the rung above city finances, internal auditing, the annual budget and department heads. Jordan hired Marr, a former colleague on the city council, for $105,000 a year. He’s now paid $111,000 plus hefty benefits.

Public records-and the news story-describe Marr’s myriad financial/legal problems (including about $142,000 in state and federal tax liens). The records have been available for the asking at the District Court office and at the Washington County Courthouse.

Marr was an executive with Staffmark, a private employment agency, for 12 years. He left there in 2003 to start two of his own employment agencies. Both firms failed.

I don’t personally know if the mayor was aware of Marr’s dire financial straits when he gave him the lucrative position. That flat-out flabbergasts me. How could he possibly have avoided knowing?

The mayor denied knowing of Marr’s woes in a news account in June of 2011 about the lawsuit filed against Marr at that time by Dr.

Michael Hollomon, a friend of Marr’s who last week gained a successful settlement judgment totaling more than $140,000.

“Mayor Jordan said . . . he did not know anything about his chief of staff’s finances, but defended Marr’s managing abilities,” the 2011 story read, saying that Marr didn’t inform the mayor of his troubles. Said Jordan at the time: “He’s got a great working relationship with me and the entire staff. . . . As far as his performance in this city, he’s been excellent.”

Jordan declined to comment when asked whether the assertions about Marr in the Hollomon lawsuit affected Marr’s ability to manage the resources of city government, that2011 story reported.

In the news story last week, which updated the additional suits filed against Marr since last year, Jordan told the reporters he doesn’t see a relevant connection between his former campaign manager’s private financial difficulties and his job with the city. The mayor concluded that he has no issue with Marr’s financial condition, or a problem with Marr remaining as the city’s top unelected administrator.

Well, I’m no mayor, but I’d sure want to know of my own campaign manager’s existing and potential indebtedness and legal problems before (and after) placing him over the city staff. Wouldn’t you?

Were no professionally qualified candidates available for this plum position? I’d enjoy comparing Marr’s qualifications as a municipal administrator and business manager with the list of candidates the mayor had to choose from in 2009.

Meanwhile, Marr assures reporters he’s doing a good job in spite of it all. “I think I’m a good manager,” Marr is quoted as saying. “I would do nothing to negatively reflect on the mayor or the council or the citizens. . . . If it ultimately ends up affecting my job and credibility, I won’t stay there.”

“My financial resources are limited,” Marr told reporter Hernandez after Hollomon sued him, adding he was trying to repay his debts.

While many people have financial difficulties, Marr’s unfortunate matters are far beyond a financial hiccup. And no one else is Fayetteville’s chief of staff, whose legal/financial problems make for multiple headlines.

I counted nine legal actions filed against Marr by various citizens, businesses and agencies since his difficulties began about four years ago (actually 11 filings, and two were resolved). Collectively, they are aimed at retrieving debts, with interest, that total at least $306,000.

In fact, the resulting news accounts since last year have explored shortfalls so colossal that despite tax-funded compensation of well over six figures, Marr says he’d enjoy winning the lottery to repay them all.

“It’s a situation that I’m not happy at all about. . . . If I won the lottery, I’d pay them [creditors] back in a second,” he said.

That’s enough windblown dust to set red flags to flapping wildly inside my imaginary city administration. But then I’m kinda persnickety about public servants, and try at all costs to avoid living in denial. I’d make a lousy mayor.

I do wish Marr all the best. Keep on plugging, you and the mayor as a team. And-by the way-it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep the boss lots better informed.

———◊-———

Mike Masterson is opinion editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest edition.

 
Printing 090312-01

       

Written by: Mike Masterson

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