A Faulkner County grievance committee on Wednesday upheld actions taken by Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock against four former sheriff’s office employees who were relieved of their duties in January after Shock took office.
Justices of the peace serving on the grievance committee were Randy Higgins, Linda Paxton and Johnnie Wells. Ricky Harrington and Andy Hawkins served as laymembers on the committee. County civil attorney David Hogue presided over the hearing.
Officials with FCSO reported the loss of nearly $30,000 to its budget February for the four deputies not rehired to their positions in January.
On Tuesday, former FCSO employees Gary Thompson, Alicia Hardy, Dalton Elliott and Scott Manning took turns making their case, telling the grievance board they believe Shock violated county policy, and reporting they didn’t know why they were not selected to fulfill their duties under Shock’s administration.
Each of the former employees asked to be reinstated to their positions and for the return of vacation time they had acquired.
All four grievants testified they received a notice of non-selection on Dec. 27 relieving them of their duties effective Jan. 1, signed by Sheriff Andy Shock.
According to the letters, Shock was not confident that their work performance would meet his expectations and their positions had been filled by other employees whom he entrusted to carry out the duties according to his standards.
The four-day period, the former deputies contended, was not in line with county employee termination policy, which states that terminated employees must be notified 10 days in advance. They also contended that Shock was only sheriff-elect at the time and was not authorized to make such decisions in his capacity as major and that neither the county administrator, county judge nor the county attorney were notified of Shock’s intent to let them go, also a violation of policy, they said.
Shock told the panel that each of the employees were relieved of their duties for various reasons, ranging from substandard work performance to untrustworthiness.
The decisions, Shock said, were not made lightly and were made in the best interest of the department and to make it the best it can be, fulfilling a promise he made to constituents while campaigning.
Geoff Thompson, an attorney representing Shock in the hearing, told the panel that each employee was not under contract with the county at the time of their notification of non-selection and had each been paid since notified of their non-selection.
“(Arkansas) is an at-will state,” Thompson said. “Which means you can be terminated for no reason or no good reason.”
Thompson asserted it was Shock’s right as sheriff to make decisions in the best interest of the department.
At the end of the hearing, panel members agreed with Shock, and after deliberating said they believed that none of the employees were illegally or unconstitutionally relieved of their duties.
Following the hearing, Shock said he was confident in his decisions.
“They weren’t decisions I made overnight and I put a lot of thought and consideration into it,” Shock said. “I take seriously taking someone’s job, but my first job is to make sure our department is the best it can be.”
(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by e-mail at email@example.com. To comment on this story and others, visit thecabin.net.)