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Sherwood alderman: officials went "behind public's back"

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SHERWOOD - A Sherwood alderman is accusing some city officials of participating in a private meeting behind closed doors to discuss the city's options on electricity providers.

Last Tuesday Alderman Toni Butler says Mayor Virginia Hillman, the city attorney, and two city aldermen walked in to the City Clerk's office following a public utilities meeting.

"We've got two Aldermen and we've got a mayor sitting here and there's no press," said Butler, remembering her thoughts. "[They said] ‘Oh we don't need it.'"

Butler then joined the group in the office and listened as Hillman discussed her desire to re-up with the "more expensive" North Little Rock Electric, rather than sign with Entergy, like Butler had hoped would happen.

Butler alleges Hillman overlooked a franchise agreement drafted for North Little Rock Electric that was pre-approved prior to last night's public meeting.

"They did not know how the vote was going to go but it was already set up the way they wanted," she adds.

Also discussed, she says, was the necessity for the $470,000 promised to Sherwood by North Little Rock Electric if they reached a deal.

"I feel like they went behind the public's back for $470, 000," said Butler.

Mayor Hillman aggressively dismissed the controversial accusations.

"Sour grapes," she said of Butler's claims. "You don't get your way and you get upset I guess."

Butler was one of the three aldermen who voted against keeping the provider Tuesday. The council ended up voting 5-3 to approve a 20-year extension with North Little Rock Electric to cover the southern part of town nearest to North Little Rock.

Hillman acknowledges the group met in the city clerk's office but that it was continuation of the public utilities meeting scheduled for last Tuesday.

"Miss Butler went herself," she said. "If she thought it was such a problem she should have stood up and said, ‘Hey this is illegal.' But it wasn't illegal."

It would take Hillman to veto last night's vote for Butler to get her wish of an alternate provider.