Incoming Bryant Mayor Allen Scott told Bryant Police Chief Mark Kizer at a meeting earlier this month that he would not be retained as chief, and his eight-year tenure will end at the end of this year. Kizer announced the decision in a letter to the public posted to his Facebook page.
Kizer complained about the move in a story published Friday in the D-G: “He said it was just time for a change. … I think he should have had a better reason.” Earlier this month, by 30 votes, Scott topped outgoing mayor Jill Dabbs, a staunch ally of Kizer, who was running for a third term.
Unmentioned in the D-G article — the variety of controversies during Kizer’s tenure, as reported on the Arkansas Blog and elsewhere, or his own politicized ascension to the job under Dabbs:
* All in the Saline County GOP family: While Kizer acts perplexed that a new mayor might want a new chief — and the D-G gives plenty of ink to Kizer’s recitation of his record — he himself was brought in a highly controversial move when the firebrand Dabbs was first elected in 2010. Dabbs replaced an 18-year force veteran, Tony Coffman, and bumped up the position’s pay to bring in Kizer, who was not working in law enforcement at the time but had close connections to Dabbs.
Coffman was not alone: At least 47 full-time city employees were fired or resigned in Dabbs’ first year in office. (You might remember Dabbs as the candidate who unsuccessfully sued Saline County to change her name so the non-partisan ballot would read “Republican” Jill Dabbs and got in hot water with the state Ethics Commission for misreporting campaign funds).
At the time Dabbs tapped him for the job, Kizer was the husband of Dabbs’ close friend, political running mate and colleague, City Clerk Heather Kizer (the Kizers have since divorced). Dabbs tried to give herself and Heather Kizer raises without the approval of the City Council (the money was eventually returned after another slap from the Ethics Commission), and fired an employee who raised questions about the maneuver.
The connections don’t stop there — Kizer served as a Republican member of the Saline County Quorum Court along with Allen Dabbs, then Jill’s husband, with whom Kizer had a close relationship. From Cheree Franco’s 2012 Arkansas Times report:
Besides being police chief, Kizer, along with Allen Dabbs, is a Republican member of the Saline County Quorum Court. Kizer and Dabbs also volunteer as deputies for the Saline County Sheriff’s Office. Mayor Dabbs has been criticized for hiring Mark Kizer, who started pulling a city paycheck on the same day that she did. The former chief, Tony Coffman, resigned in order to keep his vacation pay. (“I’d heard that Mayor Dabbs was planning to fire me and hire Mark Kizer,” he said.)
Chief Kizer leaned forward, elbows on his desk. “Anytime you have a position as strong as police chief, you need to have some kind of friendship with that person. You need to know what they are capable of,” he said. “Allen rode with me as a reserve, he knew the job I did … And as long as job is being done efficiently, what does it matter?”
All this coziness led to questions about whether Kizer could act independently, especially given the storm of controversy that surrounded Dobbs, including alleged spending malfeasance and alleged bullying of city employees. Not to mention the fact that Mark Kizer and Allen Dabbs, as members of the Quorum Court, had a say-so in the budget of the Saline Prosecuting Attorney at the time prosecutors were investigating Jill Dabbs’ improper pay raises to herself and Heather Kizer. Tangled web in Saline County!
Speaking of questionable pay raises: At the time he was hired, Kizer was no longer with the Bryant police force. He was given a $7,400 pay bump over the previous chief and was chosen over 14 other applicants despite the fact that they had more recent and extensive law enforcement experience. Again, from Franco’s report:
Kizer served on the Bryant police force from 1999 till 2003. “I had a couple of cases involving the police chief’s children. His daughter was arrested twice for narcotics on my shift. So it became a hostile work environment,” he said. His problems were with an earlier chief, but he left the force shortly after Coffman became chief. After two years with the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, Kizer started his own business, selling law enforcement equipment.
Kizer’s chief’s salary was set at $74,092, $7,400 higher annually than Coffman’s. On his employment application, he listed previous positions in sales. He was chosen over 14 other applicants, all of whom had listed law enforcement positions. Two applicants had over 30 years experience in law enforcement.
Kizer stuck around for all eight years Dabbs served as mayor, who gave the D-G a glowing report in its Friday story. “He is very dedicated, very loyal,” Dabbs she said. Wonder why?
* And a little context on the crime stats: Another tidbit that sticks out from Franco’s story. Bryant is, shall we say, a low-crime area, and Kizer boasts in his letter and the D-G report about the fact that no homicides have occurred in the city since 2014, according to FBI statistics. But a little context is in order. Here’s Kizer back in 2012, after just a little more than his first year on the job:
In fact, Kizer can only recall two homicides in the past decade, and at least one was domestic and committed by a non-Bryant resident.
* Steaks in the Raw: In 2013, Kizer was suspended for five days after he charged the city for steak dinners at Rachel’s Adult Entertainment and Steakhouse, an Orlando steakhouse/strip club, during a junket. Strippers perform continuously in view of all tables at the establishment, but Kizer claimed not to have peeked at the entertainment and that he merely went for the delicious steaks. The spending was dug up by an alderman who also unearthed junket-spending malfeasance by Dabbs; Kizer had to pay the city back for the reimbursement.
* Twerking: A more recent tale — Kizer was enmeshed in the scandal this year surrounding Dabbs’ direction to the parks department to never rent to an African-American group because a video of an event at Bishop Park Pool revealed participants twerking in bikinis. Some criticized Dabbs’ response as racially motivated, and Parks Director Chris Treat issued a complaint regarding her actions on the matter.
Although no laws were broken at the dance party and no violence was committed, Dabbs called Treat into a meeting with Kizer after seeing video and demanded that the facility not be rented to the group again. Treat’s complaint, which was revealed after a Freedom of Information request, explicitly noted that Kizer was involved in attempting to coerce him into making a statement that met the version of events preferred by Kizer and Dabbs; Treat believed that “they over-responded to the event because the event was attended by African Americans” and were going to put in discriminatory new policies going forward. From his complaint:
The Mayor refused to allow me to make any positive statement about the event. She would not allow me to comment on the fact that no policies were violated, no incidents occurred, and that overall it was under control. I felt coerced into making a statement that met the Mayor, Police Chief, and Staff Attorneys version of the events, not my own. In my opinion, they over-responded to the event because the event was attended by African Americans. The Mayor is working on adding Parks Department Policies to keep these kinds of events from happening again. I’m concerned that her new policies will be discriminatory in nature.
* Big spending: From Franco’s article —
Since Kizer became chief, aldermen have accused the force of frivolous spending, including the purchase of two Hummers and a skylift (an adjustable crowd surveillance platform). “These were bought at deep discount from a federal surplus,” Kizer explained. “It’s over $400,000 of equipment that the city was able to purchase for less than $5,000, and there is a need for it. The Hummers help with interstate rescue in inclement weather … we got the skylift at the request of the high school, because they were worried about what was going on in dark parking lots during football games.”
* Tangled web in Saline County: A few more notes on the tangled partisan backslapping —
Dabbs appointed State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb as interim city attorney, after forcing the resignation of the previous city attorney, Nga Mahfouz. Dabbs gave no reason for the ouster of a successful official who came to the city after municipal league experience. Oddly, Kizer, who is now demanding an explanation for his own ouster, didn’t complain about this at the time, nor did he complain about any of the other dozens who lost their jobs in Dabbs’ purge of city government (including, of course, the police chief who Kizer replaced).
Webb, shown with his buddy Kizer above, received pay of $65,000 a year for 60 to 90 days work, roughly $5,400 a month or $10,000 to $15,000 for Webb. He was not required to report to the office in Bryant, despite its job description for a full-time city attorney. Pretty nice work, as he continued drawing $90,000 to be the mouthpiece for the state GOP.
And what happened to Heather Kizer? Now named Heather McKim, she lost her re-election bid and took a job as a finance director of the Arkansas Republican Party. She was tapped to join the state Election Commission in 2016, and is now the director, drawing a $71,000 salary. She was picked by the Republican-controlled commission, at the suggestion of Republican commissioner Stu Soffer — over objections from a Democrat on the commission about the need to maintain a nonpolitical appearance. The week before McKim was hired, Soffer had been re-appointed to the Election Commission by…Doyle Webb.
Incidentally, back when she was running for City Clerk, Heather Kizer tried to join Dabbs in altering the nonpartisan ballots, aiming to be listed as “Republican Heather Kizer.”
“People know me as ‘Republican Heather Kizer,'” she explained in her own filing on the matter.
Well. Perhaps Jill Dabbs called him “Republican Mark Kizer” back when she gifted him a job as police chief eight years ago.