By MEGAN REYNOLDS and SCARLET SIMS
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITERS
Within a week of being sworn into office, Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock had begun implementing a reorganizational plan for the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office.
Shock, a 13-year veteran of the department, was elected in November to replace retiring Sheriff Karl Byrd, who served two terms as county sheriff following his retirement from the Arkansas State Police.
Shock’s term ends Dec. 31, 2014.
Shock began working on a structural plan for the department shortly after the election and credited the smooth transition to work by Quorum Court members in December.
Among changes to the department was the addition of four new deputies, a dispatcher, a receptionist to the CID unit, and additional courtroom security positions.
Of the four new deputy positions, two have been assigned to patrol; two others will work as school resource officers within the county.
Four corporals, three sergeants and five investigators saw $1,000 salary increases.
Other positions were eliminated. Those include one lieutenant’s position in the detention center, one food service specialist, one jail administrator, an assistant enforcement captain and three detention officer positions. With those eliminations came the reassignment of certain duties to other staff members.
Shock named Matt Rice as chief deputy. With that title, Rice will manage fleet operations and serve as public information officer for FCSO. Rice has served in several capacities at the department since 2000, including work as a patrol deputy, a SWAT member, a school resource officer, a criminal investigator and CID Commander. His last job assignment within the department was as enforcement captain.
“It was a very easy selection on my part,” Shock said of Rice’s appointment. “Matt’s experience is very well-rounded. He provides a professional image of leadership within the department. He’s approachable, dependable, service-oriented and he is an all-around great guy.”
Other promotions included Lloyd Vincent to detention captain, Pam Carter to booking lieutenant, Tom Sweeney to corporal, Frank Nokes to corporal, John Randall to major, David Hall to CID lieutenant, Katie George to corporal deputy, Matt Birdsong to patrol sergeant and Todd Mize to sergeant criminal investigator.
The new sheriff said no one was fired from the department, but six employees were not re-hired to their positions. Shock said each employee was notified of their “non-selection” via hand-delivered letter.
The letters were delivered to some who had served decades in the Sheriff’s Office.
Scott Manning served for 21 years when he received his letter at the end of December, just after Christmas.
“I am not confident that your work performance will meet my expectations,” the Dec. 27 letter from Shock said. “I have selected someone for your position that I am confident will perform the duties of this position in a manner that will meet or exceed my expectations.”
Manning was fired from his criminal investigator position, he said. He didn’t receive a write up. He didn’t have any discipline actions against him, Manning said. Manning had been through three administrations until Shock, he said.
Shock hired a new criminal investigator as part of his reorganization plans. Those plans, Shock said after being sworn in Jan. 1, were meant to promote more patrols in the county, more investigations and more services to residents.
Manning said about eight to 10 others in the Sheriff’s Office received letters at the same time as he did. Manning said he is speaking for the group, which has other long-term veterans of the office.
“We weren’t selected to continue employment, and we don’t know why,” Manning said.
Manning would not say whether the loss of his job was politically motivated, only that he didn’t know what the causes were.
He was paid Dec. 28 for the five days he had left before Shock was sworn in and made changes effective immediately. He was paid for his vacation days too.
Manning is applying for new jobs, he said. He wants to stay in law enforcement.
“These decisions weren’t made overnight,” Shock said. “There were several that I struggled with, but they were all made while seeking the best interest of this department, but more importantly for the citizens of Faulkner County. As the letter stated, my decision that their work performance will not meet my expectations sums it up. As far as having no previous disciplinary action, each employee’s personnel file is open under the Freedom of Information Act.”
Shock called any rumors regarding political motivation “moot.”
“There are still members of the FCSO who supported my opponent in the Primary or General Election that are still employed with the department,” he said.
Two of those, he said, even received promotions “because of their work ethic and dedication to the department and the citizens of Faulkner County.”
The group filed for a grievance hearing before justices of the peace, and are currently drawing salaries pending the outcome.
The date of the hearing has been postponed with no new date set.
Shock said the department is at “step one” of its reorganization efforts. “We still have a lot to do, but we’re getting closer every day.”
Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office is comprised of 162 full-time employees, 30 reserve deputies and 12 part-time deputies.
(Megan Reynolds and Scarlet Sims are staff writers. Visit us online at www.thecabin.net)