CAPC declines to discuss raise for Aud worker

Thursday, September 30, 2021

At the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission’s Aug. 25 meeting, part-time employee Sarai Aleshire, laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic after working 15 years for the city, was brought back as the front of house manager at the Auditorium making $15 an hour.

“What do y’all think about giving me a little raise?” Aleshire asked.

“Yes,” commissioner James DeVito said. “Without a doubt.”

Sarai Aleshire

The commission unanimously voted to reinstate Aleshire to her position and DeVito suggested discussing her raise at a subsequent meeting. DeVito followed up on that at the commission’s Sept. 22 meeting, but the item didn’t even make it on the agenda for discussion. When DeVito moved to add “raise for the front of the house manager” to the agenda, commissioner Harry Meyer said, “Pardon?”

“A raise for the front of the house manager,” DeVito reiterated. “We discussed that a couple of meetings ago.”

Commissioner Melissa Greene said she’d second the motion for discussion and chairman Jeff Carter took a vote to amend the agenda. DeVito voted yes, Patrick Burnett abstained and Carol Wright and Meyer voted no. At that point, DeVito could be heard saying, “Wow.”

Greene asked if the item was for discussion and Carter said, “Yeah … for us to get it on the agenda, we have to have a vote.”

“Well, for discussion, I believe we discussed keeping the salary the same through the end of the year,” Wright interjected.

“Finish our … let’s get to the vote,” Carter said.

Greene voted yes, and Carter said “that makes it three, so I’m going to vote no, so it doesn’t carry.”

DeVito said he didn’t remember the commission deciding to leave Aleshire’s pay the same until the end of the year, unless the commission addressed it at the Sept. 8 meeting that he did not attend.

“The previous meeting, we hired the front of the house manager and we were going to table the discussion of the raise until later,” DeVito told Wright. “I don’t remember your statement at all.”

“That’s what I recall,” Wright said. “It may or may not have happened, but I recall talking about leaving it fixed until the end of the year.”

“That’s not what I recall at all,” DeVito said.

Indeed, none of the commissioners mentioned keeping Aleshire’s pay rate the same until the end of the year at the Aug. 25 meeting. Wright asked Aleshire how her hours are set and asked if Aleshire would be a full-time, part-time or contracted employee, but she never suggested waiting until the end of the year to give Aleshire a raise.

At the commission’s Sept. 8 meeting, intern Molly Horton was promoted to Auditorium operations manager and marketing director and Scott Bardin was hired as the new finance director. Those were the only two staff-related items discussed at the Sept. 8 meeting.

DeVito stated at the end of the Sept. 22 meeting that he was disappointed the commission “wouldn’t even allow the agenda item to come to the table for discussion for a raise for one of our employees.”

DeVito looked over the minutes from the last meeting and said he saw more than $1 million in the bank and projections that the commission will have a surplus of more than $400,000 this year.

“Maybe it’s a problem of continuity,” DeVito said. “I don’t think any of you have been on this commission for more than a year and a half.”

“Not true,” Wright said.

“Two at most,” DeVito said. “I have the floor.”

“It’s incorrect,” Wright said.

“You can address that in your comments,” DeVito said. “We’re throwing tens of thousands of dollars around for salaries and I’m sure they’re … I voted for them, no problem there.”

“But hourly employees deserve better than this, especially with 15 years on the job,” DeVito said. “Things have changed in the world. Fifteen dollars an hour is a starting wage. I think it’s a slap in the face to salaried employees that we’re not even willing to discuss that at the table, yet we spend money in the … tens of thousand of dollars at a time.”

“Sorry, James. You disagree,” Meyer said. “That’s why we have this many … people on the commission. I don’t think years on the commission have a lot to do with it, but that’s your opinion.”

Greene said Aleshire’s pay was “never discussed among us because we don’t talk to each other” but said she had a feeling that everyone else on the commission agrees it’s tourism director Madison Dawson’s job to recommend action regarding staff members.

“I don’t think anybody here was trying to disrespect our employees,” Greene said. “I think we’re just starting to try to do things what we feel is the right way.”

Carter said he’d get the item on the agenda for the next meeting and Aleshire stood up and approached the microphone.

“I have something to say,” Aleshire said.

“Sorry, you’re not recognized at this time,” Carter said.

Also at the meeting, the commission agreed to get bids to renovate the office space for Dawson and Horton. The commission added several expenditures to the budget, including $63,500 for a fall marketing campaign, $20,000 for May Festival of the Arts, $20,000 for office expenditures and $15,000 for the office contingency fund.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Auditorium.

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