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Jonesboro City Council approves former employee Settlement

The Jonesboro City Council.
Rebecca Robinson
Jonesboro City Council members discussing the budget on Jan. 2, 2024.

The Jonesboro City Council approved a resolution to pay $35,000 to former Jonesboro Police Department employee Rachel Anderson as part of a settlement agreement.

Anderson was terminated from her job at the Real Time Crime Center after voicing complaints about a project during a public meeting. She subsequently filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city in November 2023.

The city council passed the settlement resolution with a vote of 11-to-1. Councilman L.J. Bryant voted no. The resolution was approved as a special walk-on item and was the first order of business.

“Ultimately this case would land in front of a jury, and you never know what a jury will do,” Annie Depper of Fuqua Campbell, P.A., the law firm representing the city said during the meeting. “You look to mitigate some risks. With a settlement, you are looking to mitigate those risks.”

Depper went on to emphasize she had no idea what a jury would do and ultimately it must be considered if the city were to lose the lawsuit.

“I’m not saying that we would [lose] but, this is weighing risk. In addition to her damages, her attorney would be entitled to attorney's fees. Which can be expensive particularly when an attorney has taken a case through trial,” Depper said.

Depper also added the $35,000 was a flat fee without hidden costs for the city. She advised Mayor Harold Copenhaver and Chief Rick Elliot that the settlement felt appropriate. Since all parties agreed on the settlement it was up to the City Council to pass the resolution.

If the Council had not approved the resolution the case would have gone through more litigation and ended in front of a jury.

The $35,000 will come from general administrative funds. The total settlement for $99,000 will have the remaining balance of $64,000 paid by the Arkansas Municipal League (AML).

Before the resolution came to a vote, Councilman David McClain asked Councilman Chris Moore, who chaired the resolution, for clarification about the remaining balance paid by AML.

Before asking the question Moore opened the floor for questions or comments from the council.

Carol Duncan, the City Attorney directed the Council to Depper and a representative from AML for a special presentation saying after questions and commits would be directed to the legal counsel.

After the special presentation, Depper said she would be happy to take any questions.

“As I propose this to the council and I’ve discussed it with our city council, we have no questions based on the merits of the case. Simply before us is do we want to limit our liability to $35,000. All council has agreed that would be a prudent move. That is the only item to be discussed.” Moore said before asking the clerk to call the roll.

None of the council members had a chance to ask a question before the voting began. Once the vote came to McClain he asked if he could have a clarification before voting.

“The discussion has passed,” Moore answered. “If it was a point on the $35,000 specifically that would be the only question, we would entertain but the time has passed.”

“We didn't get that option,” McClain said.

Moore replied that there was no discussion to be had. He said there was only one item before them with no other option and the council was voting “yes” or “no.”

McClain voted “yes” to the resolution as the last vote on the council. City Clerk April Legget announced the 11-1 results.

Mayor Copenhaver made a statement after the resolution passed.

“Thank you for your guidance. I appreciate that the city can move forward, and I wish Ms. Anderson well with her future endeavors,” Copenhaver said.

During Council comments, Bryant suggested that the mayor should pay for the “mistake” out of his pocket instead of the city. Bryant has been an outspoken supporter of Anderson in the past and expressed disappointment on her termination.

“I would say the taxpayers I heard from today want the mayor to pay, So I would encourage the mayor to pay for his mistake,” Bryant said.

Dustin Medlin, a community member, echoed the same sentiment during public comments.

“3,170 daily meals, 7,431 school meals, and 700 potholes are what your mistake could have accomplished. I would like to know, and the citizens would like to know what you are going to do forward to prevent unnecessary costs to the citizens.” Medlin said.

A 2019 graduate of Sheridan High School, Robinson graduated from A-State with a degree in multimedia journalism in December 2023. In January 2021, while working toward her degree, she was named sports editor for The Herald, A-State’s student-run newspaper.