City Attorney Warns Of Legal Actions After Cave Springs City Council Fires Employees

CAVE SPRINGS (KFSM) -- The Cave Springs city attorney issued a memorandum Monday (Jan. 9) to each City Council alderman notifying them of the possible civil and criminal liability they expose themselves and the city to after the aldermen voted to fire ten employees.

An alderman told 5NEWS last week the firings that took place during a special City Council meeting Jan. 4 were the result of necessary cuts to the city's budget.

In the memo, City Attorney Thomas Guarino writes the City Council has the authority to defund positions using the budget process, but, per municipal code, it does not have the authority to terminate department heads and non-department heads. That authority lies with the mayor.

He also addressed reports of a possible lawsuit being filed by the employees not only for their improper terminations, but also for retaliation for filing workplace harassment complaints.

Guarino mentioned allegations that there were multiple Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints filed against an elected official, who has been advising the City Council on terminating the same employees who filed the complaints. That official also locked an employee out of City Hall, changed the locks, terminated their access to computers and sought to terminate that employee, according to the memo. That official is not Mayor Travis Lee, according to Guarino.

There are also allegations an alderman-elect was contacting employees telling them the City Council had already agreed on who would be terminated, the memo states.

The actions of the alderman-elect and the elected official took place before the Jan. 4 meeting, according to Guarino.

Aside from lawsuits that could be filed by employees, the City Council and elected officials could also be subject to prosecutions for violating the Freedom of Information Act, the city attorney writes.

Guarino writes that he has discussed the matter with the Benton County Prosecutor's Office and reminded the alderman that he has the authority to file information for the arrest of any person violating city ordinances.

According to Guarino, the City Council could legally accomplish many of its expressed goals and could take advantage of Lee's veto by letting it stand, which would "clean the slate of potential claims the actions of the [Jan. 4th meeting] created."

An alderman told 5NEWS last week the City Council intends to override the mayor's veto of the employee terminations during their regular meeting Tuesday (Jan. 10).

To read the full memo, click here.