There were different opinions about whether it was case of poor customer service or purely a personality conflict, but Conway’s telephone system vendor and technician for more than 20 years was "fired" at Tuesday night’s Conway City Council meeting.

The city’s IT department director, Lloyd Hartzell, recommended at the April 22 council meeting that the city end its contract with Conway-based Kirby Communications and go with a different telephone vendor. 

There was a lengthy debate between Hartzell, Kirby Communications owner Stacy Kirby Davis and the council at the council’s April 22 meeting. Hartzell said that Davis wouldn’t give his department the telephone access codes. Davis said that it was accepted practice in his industry to deny these access codes to anyone who wasn’t a trained technician. Hartzell said that Davis didn’t return emails. Davis said that he reads and responds to emails three times a day, and prefers voice calls. The council voted at that meeting to table the decision and asked for Hartzell and Davis to send them information about the relationship between the city and Kirby Communications.

On Tuesday, Mayor Tab Townsell recommended that the council not accept Kirby Communication’s bid to continue being the city’s telephone vendor and service provider. Townsell said that "after weeks and months of arguing" it was clear to him that the personality clash was not going to be resolved.

Councilman David Grimes agreed. "I regret that it’s come to this point," Grimes said. "… Here’s the reality for the council: There’s always going to be a conflict there that can’t be resolved. The council does not have the authority to remove Mr. Hartzell, so all we can do is remove the vendor.

"I’m not happy it’s gotten this far," Grimes continued. "Good lord, folks, work this [sort of thing] out. I work in business. Sometimes you have to work it out."

Councilwoman Mary Smith told Hartzell that she heard him say at the last meeting that several departments were not pleased with Kirby Communications. "I called those departments and they had nothing but glowing remarks." Smith told Davis that she was sorry that it had come to this. 

Davis wasn’t allowed to speak at the meeting. Townsell said that his time to speak at the April 22 meeting and the information he sent to city hall at the council’s request satisfied his due process rights. He tried to give Hartzell a plastic bag with what looked like CD-ROM disks in it that he said had the access codes Hartzell had requested, but Townsell said it wasn’t the appropriate time.

The council voted 7-1 to give Benton-based Netcom the contract. Councilman Mark Ledbetter voted against it.