The Little Rock Board of Directors voted to table consideration of a symbolic no-confidence vote on Police Chief Keith Humphrey Tuesday night, but not before tensions flared between some board members and Mayor Frank Scott Jr. amid contentious questions over parliamentary procedure.
The chief answers to Scott, not the board. The resolution from Ward 5 Director Lance Hines urges Scott “to take appropriate action” with Humphrey, who Scott hired and has continued to support.
Earlier Tuesday, City Attorney Tom Carpenter sent a memo to Hines encouraging him not to move forward on the resolution because of litigation involving the Little Rock Police Department.
Carpenter repeated his concerns at the meeting and said he needed more time to consult with other lawyers and review the matter. He again asked Hines not to proceed with the resolution.
Hines then made a motion to adjourn until Dec. 29, the next scheduled regular board meeting. At-large Director Joan Adcock seconded the motion. Before taking it up for a vote, Scott told the board that Hines’ was taking an “inappropriate action.”
Hines repeatedly asked for a point of order while Scott was speaking and Scott heatedly said, “I am the chairman of the board, and I am speaking right now!”
Adjourning the meeting at that point in the agenda would have meant putting off adopting the city’s 2021 budget, Scott said, adding that city staff had been working on for months. Carpenter then interjected to tell Scott that he couldn’t ignore Hines’ call for a point of order. Hines said he didn’t believe his motion to adjourn the meeting was debatable. Scott said Hines had been “admonished” by the city attorney and was putting the board in legal jeopardy. Hines said that Carpenter’s memo didn’t say that. Then Ward 2 Director Ken Richardson asked if the point of order was debatable and talked a length about city personnel matters not being under the board’s purview.
The mayor then restated his objections with Hines trying to interject with calls for point of order that went unheeded by the mayor. Scott called for a vote on Hines’ motion to adjourn the meeting and judged that the nays had it. Hines then called for a roll call and the meeting devolved into chaos.
Ward 6 Director Doris Wright said, “Let’s be clear what we’re voting for.” Carpenter and City Manager Bruce Moore both incorrectly tried to explain that Hines wanted to table the no-confidence vote rather than adjourn the meeting. Ward 1 Director Erma Hendrix, who was participating remotely, waved her hand repeatedly in front of her camera asking “What’s going on?” and “What are we voting on?” Ward 7 Director Vice Mayor BJ Wyrick, who was also participating remotely and typically wears large cowboy hats throughout meetings, took her hat off. Hines again asked for a point of order and for his motion for a roll call to be considered. Scott asked Carpenter if, as chair, he could ignore Hines. Carpenter then asked for a recess to consult “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Hines continued to call for a point of order after Scott gaveled the meeting into recess.
After the recess, there was still confusion, but ultimately Scott asked for another vote on Hines’ original motion to adjourn the meeting. Scott called the vote for the nays. Hines again called for a roll call. At-large Director Gene Fortson, Ward 4 Director Capi Peck, Hines, Wyrick and Wright voted for Hines motion to adjourn. Scott asked if any of the yes votes were willing to change. Wright said, “If everyone is willing to stay here til late, I’ll stay.” So Hines’ motion failed.
So the board heard public comment on the no confidence resolution on Humphrey.
Retired judge Marion Humphrey, a supporter of Chief Humphrey (no relation), said “Y’all know this is racist, don’t you? Some years ago there was a meeting of judges in Pulaski County and in that meeting the black judges had a different point of view from the white judges. To her credit and character, [now retired] Judge Ellen Brantley said I will not be a party to any vote or passing any plan onto the Supreme Court where all the white judges take one position and all the black judges take another position. Do you all have the character to do that?”
At-large Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris then made a motion to table the no-confidence resolution for two weeks. Scott declined to recognize his motion, saying, “We still have business to conduct.” The room was full of socially distanced citizens who came to speak on behalf of the chief (Kumpuris had earlier asked the mayor to clear the room partially out of COVID concerns).
Activist Natalie James said she was grateful to have an “open door policy” with the chief. “We have someone from West Little Rock who does not see what goes on all around the city telling us how to deal with our urban youth, who has no idea how to do it, because of … privilege,” she said of Hines.
Sgt. Rodney Lewis, president of the LRPD Black Police Officers Association, said his organization supported Humphrey. “As a result of Chief Humphrey’s willingness to engage people who have been disenfranchised, he’s being attacked by people who want to maintain the status quo.”
After public comment, Kumpuris made his motion again and it passed 6-4, with Kumpuris, Fortson, Wyrick, Adcock, Peck and Hines supporting it.
A motion to consider the city budget by placing the item on a third reading failed when it didn’t earn eight votes required. Directors Adcock, Hines and Kumpuris voted no.