September 9, 2009 Edition

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WR mayor splits job
into two positions

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Following a special council meeting on Sept. 1, Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers has announced that Robert Rice will be the city's full-time code enforcement officer, and Kyle Riggs will be the full-time animal control officer.

Riggs has been a part-time animal control officer and worked full time in that capacity while Rice was on administrative leave following an incident KAIT-TV aired of Rice tasering a dog last month.

Mayor Rogers met with council members to get their input on the situation before she met with Rice. Each councilman agreed that Rice was just doing his job and deserved to remain a city employee.

"Rice is a man who takes pride in his job and has done it well," Councilman Michael "Button" Wallin said. "We don't want to discredit Rice in any way." Councilman Wendell Jones said, "He's done a good job, and I feel we need to back him up."

"The public doesn't know there is no humane way to pick up these dogs," Councilman Jonathan Sanders said. "Some dogs have had their teeth broken out by the catch poles, dart guns have killed one or two dogs and those that are darted can take a month or two to heal. Robert used the most humane method as far as I'm concerned."

Sanders added that a neighbor saw the whole incident and told him that he saw the dog try twice to bite Rice.

Rogers told the council that Hoxie Mayor Donnie Roberts had also told her that the same dog had tried twice to bite Hoxie's water meter reader.

"Brandi Hodges of KAIT-TV told us there were three minutes of the incident that she did not tape, so the whole story is not shown on the tape that was aired," Councilwoman Paula Haskins reminded the council.

Several council members told Rogers that many people felt that Rice had done the right thing. Aldermen agreed that he was the one who was there and knew whether or not he felt threatened.

They all agreed that they could see how the video shown made it look like a bad decision at that exact moment, but also expressed that the video doesn't tell the whole story.

After meeting with the council and Rice, Mayor Rogers decided to split the position of code enforcement officer and animal control officer into two positions.

As code enforcement officer Rice will work under the supervision of Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins, and animal control office Riggs will be under the supervision of Walnut Ridge Police Chief Leslie Gates.

"Rice had been doing both jobs, which is too much work for one person," Rogers said. "This change in job duties works well for everyone."

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