• Dennis McCaslin

Mansfield mayor hires FS attorney McCutchen to fight city council efforts

Fort Smith Attorney Joey McCutchen announced today that he will be representing Mansfield Mayor Larry Austin in connection with attempts to have Mayor Austin’s duties removed or to have the mayor removed from office.

McCutchen said that Arkansas law is very clear and that a mayor’s duties cannot be removed by a city council except in certain circumstances—where the mayor is unable to perform the duties of office or cannot be located—that are not present here. “Arkansas Code Annotated Section 14-43-504 sets forth the duties of a mayor.

"A Mansfield city ordinance or resolution cannot override a law passed by the state legislature outlining the mayor’s duties,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen continued that “Arkansas law is also clear about the process for removing a mayor. He or she may be recalled by the signing of petitions by the voters of the city or upon conviction by a Circuit Court following an indictment for nonfeasance.”

McCutchen made clear that a City Council does not have the right or power to attempt to remove a mayor from office or to reduce his powers and duties.

“The council members need to be helping with the problem rather than claiming that Mayor Austin has not been proactive,” McCutchen said. Councilman Rick McDaniel was quoted as saying “He [Mayor Austin] didn’t try to get help. He thinks he can do everything himself is what I’m saying. He don’t want to ask for help. In fact, he won’t ask for help.”

McCutchen disputed Councilman McDaniel’s account and produced a timeline on the Mansfield city website detailing the numerous actions taken by Mayor Austin to rectify a damaged water tower.

“If the council members spent as much time in helping with the problem as they have in trying to remove the Mayor or find a scapegoat, the problem would likely have been fixed by now.”

McCutchen also expressed concerns about whether members of the city council unlawfully orchestrated an attempt at removing the Mayor in a manner that violated the open meeting provision of the Freedom of Information Act. McCutchen said that he was investigating the possibility of a violation.