CAPC won’t renew Ekberg’s contract
By Samantha Jones
The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission has officially cut ties with former executive director Lacey Ekberg.
At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 22, the commission voted not to renew Ekberg’s 90-day contract. The contract will expire on May 14, chairwoman Carol Wright said.
After the commission heard staff reports at the April 22 meeting, Wright called for a “special meeting,” saying the purpose of the “special meeting” was to discuss salaries and contracts with employees and contractors.
Because it was difficult to hear the commissioners on a live stream of the meeting, mayor’s assistant Kim Stryker clarified that the commission was “adjourning for an executive session” to review all salaries of employees and contracts, even though the commission voted to adjourn for a “special meeting.”
Cyndy Murrieta, associate media director for Paradise Advertising & Marketing, asked if that discussion was public and interim director Gina Rambo said “personnel is not public.”
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act outlines specific guidelines for public bodies meeting in executive session.
“(E)xecutive sessions will be permitted only for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, or resignation of any public officer or employee,” the act says, with the only exception being for matters related to the security of a public water system or utility system. “The specific purpose of the executive session shall be announced in public before going into executive session.”
When the commission returned from the “special meeting” after approximately 56 minutes, Wright said the results of the executive session were that the commission would end Ekberg’s contract May 14. DeVito then moved to not renew Ekberg’s contract and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.
“We will go into the rest of the meeting now,” Wright said, beginning a discussion on the 2020 budget. “Oh, we need to adjourn the executive session.”
The commission then agreed to adjourn the executive session.
The decision not to renew Ekberg’s contract came after the commission voted Feb. 10 to approve a “contractual agreement” to pay Ekberg $7,500 a month for a minimum of three months to work off-site, with a review after 90 days. Ekberg had served as the CAPC’s executive director since Aug. 15, 2019, although the commission never approved her hiring in open session as required by state law. At a CAPC meeting on July 10, 2019, commissioners emerged from an executive session to announce that they had selected Ekberg for the executive director position.
On Jan. 16, the Lovely County Citizen reported that Ekberg’s resume described at least three of her previous positions as “short-term contracts” despite public records and published reports indicating that they were initially intended to be permanent positions. The Citizen also revealed that Ekberg did not disclose a position she held for two months in 2018 — before being fired — while on a partially paid leave of absence from another position.
The Citizen reported Feb. 6 that the National Student Clearinghouse, the designated degree verification service for the University of California at Berkeley and Boise State University in Idaho, could not confirm that Ekberg received degrees from either school. A cover letter that Ekberg submitted along with her resume as a candidate for the executive director position indicated that she holds two bachelor’s degrees, without identifying particular schools. On an application for a previous position, Ekberg listed a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Boise State and a bachelor’s degree in business law from Cal-Berkeley.
After voting at the April 22 meeting not to renew Ekberg’s contract, the commission then voted to remove Ekberg from as a bank account signer and placed Rambo on the list of signers, which includes finance director Rick Bright and commissioners Susan Harman and Terry McClung.
Also at the April 22 meeting, the commission voted to cut the budget for Out in Eureka by 30 percent after Spring Diversity Weekend was canceled because of COVID-19. The commission agreed to cut the budget by another 30 percent if the next diversity event is canceled.
The commission moved on to address tax payments during COVID-19 and Harman moved to waive the penalties and interest on all payments for March, April, May and June 2020. The commission unanimously agreed to do so. Bright said the payments will resume in July, saying tax collectors can set up a payment plan if they can’t pay in full. That hasn’t been much of a problem so far, Bright said, with most tax collectors paying for March already.
Bright presented the financial report for March, saying the cash balance as of March 31 was $633,983.87. He listed tax collections remitted in March, from February collections. He said restaurants brought in $39,184, up $2,397 (6.5 percent). Total lodging collections were $33,711, up $428 (1.3 percent). These lodging collections include: $9,288 for hotels, down $1,631 (14.9 percent); $10,233 for motels, down $579 (5.4 percent); $2,473 for B&Bs, up $195 (8.6 percent); and $11,717 for cabins and cottages, up $428 (26.4 percent). Bright said the year-to-date lodging collections compared with 2019 are up $20,804 (25.6 percent) and the year-to-date restaurant collections compared with 2019 are up $15,948 (14.5 percent). The year-to-date total collections, he said, are up $36,752 (19.2 percent).
The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27.