Notes on a record snow day: Faulkner deputy brutality; new water boss; missing money; Jonesboro fuss | Arkansas Blog

Friday, January 22, 2016

Notes on a record snow day: Faulkner deputy brutality; new water boss; missing money; Jonesboro fuss

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 7:32 AM

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For the time being, a snapshot from my front doorstep is as far as I plan to venture out in what turned out to be a Little Rock record snow day — 5.9 inches measured at the National Weather Service's North Little Rock office (with snow still falling) compared with the 4-inch prior record for the date.

Given that official Arkansas, at least in Little Rock, is shut down today, I'm expecting light news.

So, some catchup news and notes from around Arkansas to start the morning:

* THE POLICE BRUTALITY INVESTIGATION IN FAULKNER COUNTY: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's  Deborah Hale-Shelton continues her meticulous review of the excessive use of force by at least one Faulkner County deputy last May. The kicking of a subdued suspect is now subject of a federal Grand Jury review, presumably for potential civil rights violations. 

Questions that arise between the lines of the reporting. How quickly did then-Sheriff Andy Shock and Prosecutor Cody Hiland respond to indications that excessive force was used. Eventually a deputy was fired and Heiland eventually said he found no felony violation. If the feds find cause for criminal violations it might cast some shadows on past decision-making. Eight months later, a special prosecutor says he's still investigating whether a misdemeanor violation occurred. Shock landed an appointment from Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the Parole Board. Hiland is running for a Court of Appeals seat.

It's fair to ask what they did and didn't know or do i the days and weeks immediately following the incident. Civil rights investigation of police agencies for use of force go beyond the brutality to how superiors acted or failed to act. For his part, Shock told Shelton he wouldn't change anything that had been done.

* NEW LEADER OF WATER UTILITY: Central Arkansas Water last night elevated their legal counsel Tad Bohannon, to succeed Graham Rich as the water utility's leader. Bohannon was the only person considered for the opening and Rich recommended Bohannon. Rich's recommendation is solid gold. He was a calm, able leader through some contentious political times. His loss is South Carolina's gain.

* $680,000 MISSING FRON YELL COUNTY EMS: I was remiss yesterday in not passing along a state audit of the Yell County Emergency Medical Services. It found that amount in excessive payments to Director Sidney Ward and his wife and agency bookkeeper Donna Ward, plus unauthorized payments for dependents' health insurance. They've been fired. The matter has been turned over to a prosecutor for review. A bonus of more than $100,000 a year over six years? You wonder if their lifestyle seemed, in retrospect, a mite luxurious for quiet Yell County.

The audit was limited to six years. Sidney Ward had worked for the private nonprofit since 1988, his wife since 1999. In 2014, for example, he was authorized to be paid about $78,000, but received $187,000. She was authorized to be paid about $37,000, but drew $68,000. The board of the agency responded that its oversight had been lax. Read the details of the audit here.

* JONESBORO RESIDENTS UNHAPPY ABOUT CODE ENFORCEMENT: The morning mail brings news that a group of Jonesboro residents is organizing to gather signatures to force a special electionMay 3 on a new property maintenance code. The unhappy residents say it sets unreasonable fines for violations of rules on maintenance of interiors and exteriors of all structures, business or residential. They are unhappy that, as in most cities, an "unelected code official" will do inspections and interpret the code. They object to giving code officials a "right of entry" to inspect. Said the email:

We did not start this fight, but our convictions related to each homeowner’s personal privacy rights are being violated. We believe this property code is in direct opposition to the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution, and as such, we must act. We encourage all residents to sign a petition and help us place the Repeal on the ballot for May 3, 2016.

Tea Partyers Mark Pillow and Iris Stevens are among the contacts for the effort, along with Fayetteville lawyer Travis Story, a leader in the fight against ordinances that prohibit discrimination against gay people.

The code was adopted in December when Mayor Harold Perrin broke a 6-6 Council tie on the measure.

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