Concerns Over Future of Arkansas Travelers Prompt Controversial Shakeup

by Todd Traub  on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

Arkansas Travelers President Russ Meeks: “There are a lot of people that have difficulty with change.” (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Meeks said he definitely wants someone with experience in baseball.

The Travelers have already hired former intern Drew Williams, a ticket service account executive with the St. Louis Cardinals, to assume Kay’s duties as ticket manager, but Williams will not have the title of assistant general manager. Meeks said that when the vacancies are filled, there will be only one assistant general manager — as opposed to two, Allen and Kay, under Laven.

The team also recently promoted several other interns to sales and community relations positions. The Travelers will also likely have to find replacements for concessions manager, wholesale and various other positions staffed by former Laven employees at Ray Winder Field and Dickey-Stephens Park.

The Travelers, which have operated with 13 permanent employee positions, will probably wind up with 15 to 18, Meeks said. But the staff will still be one of the smallest in the league.

‘Suspicious of the Motives’

Laven and Kay are bound by a severance agreement that prohibits them from speaking to the media. But others have stepped forward to describe Meeks’ actions as a power grab complete with a stacking of the team’s board of directors in Meeks’ favor.

“I’m unhappy; I’m very suspicious of the motives involved,” said former board member Greg Crawford. “I do not think it’s in the best interest of baseball in central Arkansas with the way the operation is going. I believe that everything is being set up to consolidate authority in one person who is very, very good at making it all sound real nice to the board but in fact what he’s saying isn’t true.”

Outcry over the firings has come from longtime employees, fans, board members and shareholders and was given a voice on a fan-operated Facebook page titled “Take Me Out of the Ballpark,” with the criticism directed primarily at Meeks.

As an example, Crawford pointed to his own removal from the board, which had been built up to its maximum 25 then pared down to its current 15 on the recommendations of a nominating committee. Crawford saw the move as an effort to remove those who might oppose Meeks’ decisions. He said he was notified of the decision just before the annual shareholders’ meeting in October.

Meeks, however, said the decisions, which removed from the board several Travelers employees, like Ballpark Superintendent Greg Johnston and Concessions Manager John Evans, were based on recommendations that followed a series of audits and reviews.

Meeks said having employees serving on the board created a potential conflict of interest.

“One of the things that was suggested to us was that employees — from an auditing and accounting standpoint and a potential liability standpoint — should probably not be considered for board positions of active management, active corporate management, that hires and fires employees,” Meeks said.



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