Faulkner County agency 3 short

Only 1 subordinate since Feb. 1 after sex-harassment claims

CONWAY -- The Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management, whose director has been accused of sexual harassment and other misdeeds by four former and current employees, has been down since Feb. 1 to a single employee who reports to the director.

County attorney David Hogue said he expects the office to be fully staffed "within the next several days."

The Emergency Management Office normally employs the director, Shelia Bellott, and four staff members. Three of the four, all of whom have filed complaints accusing Bellott of sexual harassment and other wrongdoing, resigned. Two quit in January and one in November.

Two of the former workers have a federal sex-harassment lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.

The remaining employee, Eric Duvall, works in an office about 5 miles from the downtown Conway office where Bellott works. County Judge Jim Baker assigned Bellott to work there so she would be separate from employees who complained about her behavior.

The county has received 16 applications for one of the vacant jobs, 21 for another and 28 for the third, Hogue said Tuesday in response to a request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Among the justices of the peace, only one responded to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette email asking if they had concerns that the Emergency Management Office was so short-staffed and whether they thought this would be a problem should the county have another major tornado, or an oil spill as it had in Mayflower in 2013.

In a one-sentence email, that Quorum Court member, John Pickett, replied, "I have not received any updates about replacing the employees."

Hogue said job postings for the vacant positions were placed with the state Department of Workforce Services from Jan. 23 through Feb. 5.

A selection committee of three people not involved with the Office of Emergency Management reviewed all applications and selected applicants to be interviewed, Hogue said. The interviews were held Friday.

Committee members were David Maxwell, a former director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management; Conway Fire Chief Mike Winters; and Rick Kelley, also formerly with the Emergency Management Department.

The committee, along with Conway alderman and former firefighter Mark Ledbetter, chose the person they believe to be the best applicant for each position, "but they have not yet been formally hired," Hogue said.

Hogue said in an email that the "good news ... is that while these positions are necessary to accomplish various aspects of the OEM workload on normal days, when a disaster strikes the response team is made up of local first responders, law enforcement and many others in addition to the OEM team."

"Based on this, in a major disaster, we would only have three missing out of the multitudes that help," he added.

State Desk on 02/22/2018

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