The Monroe City Council is expected to entertain a motion appointing City Councilman-elect Doug Harvey to complete the unexpired term for District 1 at the City Council’s meeting on Tuesday.
Monroe City Council members Gretchen Ezernack, Kenneth “Kenny” Wilson and Eddie Clark are expected to support a motion to appoint Harvey as an interim member until he begins his full term on July 1.
“Ultimately, it looks like everything will go to where it should have been,” Harvey told The Ouachita Citizen. “The general feedback right now is that Eddie Clark, Kenneth Wilson would definitely support it. Gretchen sent me an email that she would support it. As long as it’s on the agenda, that’s my expectation.”
Earlier this month, state. Rep. Michael Echols, R-Monroe, recommended Harvey as his interim replacement on the council after Harvey drew no opposition during qualifying and secured election. Qualifying ended Jan. 10 but the City Council did not take up the appointment of an interim member at its Jan. 14 meeting. According to a Facebook video published by Echols, City Council chairwoman Juanita Woods and Mayor Jamie Mayo were seeking to block Harvey in favor of finding another candidate.
“Doug Harvey won this election fair and square,” said Echols in his Jan. 15 video. “The politics that are being played at City Hall by this Council chair and her colleagues are absolutely disgusting.”
Echols said he and Harvey interpreted remarks by Woods to mean they were considering former District 1 City Councilman Jay Marx to serve as an interim council member.
“Mr. Harvey gave me the news that Juanita Woods, the chairman of the Monroe City Council, would refuse to allow him to begin his service and be appointed at last night’s meeting or any future meeting,” said in his Jan. 15 video.
“Her exact words are, ‘We need someone with more financial experience, that knows the budget, and has been a City Councilman, someone with an accounting degree.’ At this point, it looks like she’s recommending Jay Marx.”
In a Jan. 15 post to Facebook, Marx — who lost to Echols in the 2016 race for District 1 — defended his involvement.
“After Mike’s election to the State Legislature, I was approached by several civic business leader and asked if I would be willing to fill in for the six month period remaining on Mike’s term,” Marx said.
“Reluctantly, and happily retired, I agreed if asked and if there was no drama involved. That was the end of the discussion as far as I knew. At no time did the Mayor have any discussions with me about this.”
Marx did not say whether any of the City Council’s members, including Woods, discussed the matter with him.
Echols pointed to Mayo as the source of the trouble.
“Bad leadership and another bad decision,” Echols said. “We need to elect better people.”
“This is childish and political,” Echols added.
Echols’ video drew a heated response from Mayo, who targeted Echols and his ally, Monroe businessman Friday Ellis. Ellis is one of four candidates challenging Mayo’s re-election bid.
According to Mayo, Echols’ remarks in the video were meant to damage Mayo’s credibility and boost Ellis’ mayoral campaign.
“He’s transitioned to what he’s all about, supporting a candidate he’s supporting for mayor,” Mayo said.
Mayo noted that the City Council has, at times, declined to appoint the recommended person as an interim member.
“He knows — Mr. Echols — that the mayor of the city of Monroe does not have a vote,” Mayo said. “He knows that. So he’s deceiving the public to make them think this is a political deal where I’m making decisions for the City Council.”
Concerning the rumor that Woods and Mayo wanted Marx to complete Echols’ term, Mayo said, “I don’t know whether it’s true or not.”
“You’ll know once they vote who that person will be,” he added.
Earlier this week, Woods’ response to questions about the appointment of an interim council member were similarly vague. She was simply following protocol, she said.
“I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” Woods told The Ouachita Citizen. “It is an item that has to go on the council’s agenda. When it goes on the council’s agenda.”
When asked whether she spoke with Marx or Mayo about the District 1 appointment, Woods said, “I have not had conversations with anybody about anything about that position, not even Mr. Echols.”
Ezernack, who said she has committed to supporting Harvey, defended the absence of any motion to appoint Harvey during the last City Council meeting because there was not enough time to add the matter to the agenda before the agenda was published.
“It was a timing issue,” Ezernack said. “It was an agenda issue.”
A governing body may amend an agenda by majority vote. That did not happen at the City Council’s Jan. 14 meeting.
When asked whether she spoke with Mayo or any City Council member about the District 1 appointment, Ezernack said, “No.”
“The mayor doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she said. “It’s over now.”
Clark and Wilson did not respond to The Ouachita Citizen’s inquiries prior to deadline.