Former Rogers Treasurer Talks Wrongful Termination

Rogers -- Former Rogers Treasurer Jerry Hudlow claims he was targeted by city officials after raising questions about expense reports.

"I don't care if it's a nickle or $5 million," Hudlow says. "I take the taxpayers' money very, very seriously."

Hudlow says that sense of responsibility led him to question expense reports filed by City Attorney Ben Lipscomb.

"In January of 2012, there was a check written to Mr. Lipscomb for $489 to attend the continuing legal education and to attend the Arkansas Municipal League," Hudlow says. "While the taxpayer is sending him down there to get these continuing legal education hours and to attend the conference, three hours out of a possible 2 and a half days is what he admits he was there."

Six hours of continuing eduction were available at the conference, but Lipscomb only recieved 2, and says he was duck hunting during part of the trip.

"I stayed at a hunting club that I belonged to, and actually saved the city money by not having to put me up in a hotel room there where the conference was," Lipscomb says.

Hudlow took his concerns to Mayor Greg Hines, and was surprised by the response.

"I was sent an email by the Mayor telling me to not question (Lipscomb's) expense reports," Hudlow says.

"Mr. Hudlow and Mr. Lipscomb had a long history that started way before I came into office," Hines says. "What I was trying to say in that email was, I haven't changed any policies that have been in effect for the last decade."

However, Hudlow says City Hall's atmosphere did change.

"Once I began to question Ben Lipscomb on his practices, his travel and training practices, there, uh, things went downhill pretty quick," Hudlow says. "I could tell that I was being isolated."

In May of 2012, the Mayor fired Hudlow, under the city attorney's advice.

"I told them that morning, I said 'Guys, you are violating your own ordinances here,'" Hudlow says.

Lipscomb refused to debate the issue.

"I was not going to talk to him about it," he says. "I had already opined to the Mayor, wrongfully as it turns out, we're all aware, that he had the authority to terminate him."

Hines gave the media a list, available here, outlining the reasons Hudlow had to go, but Hudlow says the examples given were misleading and damaged his reputation.

"All of those incidents are based on instances but they are spun in order to fit his agenda," he says.

Hudlow filed a wrongful termination suit in August of 2012, and a federal judge ruled the firing was clearly illegal. The treasurer was awarded damages for lost wages, emotional distress and loss of reputation.

"I did the best job that I thought that I could do, based upon the law and the facts as I saw them," Lipscomb says. "I gave an opinion, turns out the judge disagreed with it."

Lipscomb admits he made a mistake, but taxpayers paid for it. The city used $630,000 from its general fund to settle the suit with Hudlow, putting him in the position of taking cash from the same city he once served.

"It does hurt me to know that that money came out of the city coffers," Hudlow says. "It should have come out of the pockets of the people who made the mistake."

He says it's too easy to take responsibility, if you aren't paying the bill.

"Mr. Lipscomb says, 'Well the buck stops with me,' that's easy to say when you're not running for re-election," Hudlow says. "You really want to take blame, cough up some money, because that's how you take blame."

The Mayor and Attorney talked about the suit last week, to see their side of the story, click here.

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