North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays this week expressed displeasure over letters sent to city residents and bearing his signature promoting a private company's products, and said they were mailed without his knowledge.
Service Line Warranties of America of Canonsburg, Pa., sent the letters. The company has a marketing agreement with North Little Rock allowing it to use the city's name to promote its water and sewer line warranty programs.
Arkansas Business was the first to report on the letters in its Monday edition. In Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Hays said he did not endorse the service being offered in the letters, which also bear the city's letterhead and address.
"When it appears that I endorse it -- when I didn't, and I don't -- that angers me," Hays told the statewide daily newspaper Tuesday.
Hays talked with Arkansas Business on Oct. 15 and said SLWA used his signature on letters mailed in September, but the incident was a mistake.
"That was a misunderstanding and that's not going to happen again," Hays said at the time.
Hays had emailed and mailed a letter on Oct. 5 to SLWA representative Oscar Arras requesting the company not distribute marketing materials "for the City of North Little Rock without the prior approval of the Mayor, and that this approval be acknowledged by the actual and timely signature of the Mayor."
Arras told the Democrat-Gazette that because Hays' Oct. 5 letter arrived on a Friday before the Columbus Day holiday, it was too late to send out another round of letters, which arrived in North Little Rock mailboxes in mid-October containing the mayor's signature.
In doing so, SLWA re-used a signature block from an SLWA promotional letter Hays actually did sign, the mayor told Arkansas Business on Wednesday. In the spring, during SLWA's first warranty program promotion in North Little Rock, Hays signed off on a letter promoting a sewer line warranty program.
"I signed it. I reviewed the letter and felt it was factual and the Council had endorsed the program. That's the way I assumed any subsequent letter would be done," Hays said Wednesday.
The city's agreement with SLWA does not include any commitments from the mayor, he said.
Hays said SLWA sent both letters in the fall without his knowledge.
"Any revision in any kind of communication, even if it's a different date, ought to be re-signed," Hays said.
Hays said he didn't suspect "malicious intent" from SLWA.
"I'm not saying at this point that the program isn't legitimate. They have business relationships with other cities and to my knowledge they perform in the way they represent," Hays said. "I can't help but say that certainly their prudency and business approach was sloppy at best in how they did it."