The Official Publication of the Association of Arkansas Counties
County Lines Winter 2021
Backing the Blue
Package of bills to benefit law enforcement unveiled. Page 22
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In This Issue Winter 2021
Features AAC Calendar.......................................................................................6 Governor Expresses Priorities in State of the State Address....11 Task Force Proposals Turn into Bills..............................................22 Sharp County Completes New Detention Center........................32 AAC Photo Recap: County Clerks....................................................36 AAC Photo Recap: County Judges................................................37 AAC Photo Recap: Circuit Clerks...................................................38 AAC Photo Recap: County Sheriffs................................................39 AAC Photo Recap: County Collectors.........................................40
Cover Notes: Backing the Blue
From the Director’s Desk...................................................................7 President’s Perspective......................................................................9 From the Governor............................................................................11 AG Opinions.......................................................................................12 Seems to Me..................................................................................... 14 Governmental Affairs.......................................................................17 Legal Corner......................................................................................18 Litigation Lessons.............................................................................20 Wellness & Safety............................................................................21 News from NACo...............................................................................42
(Photos by Brent Walker)
State Sen. Jason Rapert (pictured on the cover and above left) kicked off a Back the Blue event on the State Capitol steps March 2, 2021. Several bills aimed at improving law enforcement in Arkansas were announced (Read more starting on Page 22). Those bills are currently making their way through the 93rd General Assembly. Present for the event were lawmakers and local and state law enforcement officers. Pictured above right are Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Rep. Les Warren, Rep. Austin McCollum, and Arkansas Sheriffs Association Director Scott Bradley. Pictured at left are Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook, Saline County Sheriff Rodney Wright, and Rep. Carol Dalby. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
April 10 AAQC 75-Member Board AAC, Little Rock
AAC Mission Statement June 6-9 Sheriffs Embassy Suites, Jonesboro
April 21-23 Treasurers Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock
June 8-11 Circuit Clerks Mount Magazine, Paris
April 28-30 Collectors Embassy Suites, Jonesboro
June 14-16 Judges Embassy Suites, Jonesboro
June 1-4 County Clerks Crossties Event Center, Texarkana
June 17-18 Treasurers Mount Magazine, Paris
June 4-6 & June 12-13 Coroners Embassy Suites, Jonesboro
June 24-25 Collectors Mount Magazine, Paris
Contact AAC Chris Villines, Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org Anne Baker, Executive Assistant email@example.com Deann Campbell, Receptionist firstname.lastname@example.org Eddie Jones, Consultant email@example.com Mark Whitmore, Chief Legal Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org Josh Curtis, Governmental Affairs Director email@example.com
he Association of Arkansas Counties supports and promotes the idea that all elected officials must have the opportunity to act together in order to solve mutual problems as a unified group. To further this goal, the Association of Arkansas Counties is committed to providing a single source of cooperative support and information for all counties and county and district officials. The overall purpose of the Association of Arkansas Counties is to work for the improvement of county government in the state of Arkansas. The Association accomplishes this purpose by providing legislative representation, on-site assistance, general research, training, various publications and conferences to assist county officials in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of their office.
1415 West Third Street Little Rock, AR 72201 (501) 372-7550 phone / (501) 372-0611 fax www.arcounties.org Mark Harrell, IT Manager Karen Bell, Administrative Assistant firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Risk Management/ Workers’ Compensation Debbie Norman, Risk Mgmt. & Insurance Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Lakey, Workers’ Comp Claims Mgr. email@example.com Cathy Perry, Admin. Asst./Claims Analyst firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellen Wood, Admin. Asst./Receptionist email@example.com Brandy McAllister, RMS Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org Colin Jorgensen, RMF Litigation Counsel email@example.com JaNan Thomas, RMF Litigation Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org Melissa Dugger, RMF Litigation Counsel email@example.com
Holland Doran, Communications Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Nash, Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster email@example.com Camille Neemann, RMF Litigation Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org Renee Turner,Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster email@example.com Fonda Fitzgerald, RMF Paralegal firstname.lastname@example.org Riley Groover, Claims Analyst email@example.com Michalene Zionce, RMF Paralegal firstname.lastname@example.org
Karan Skarda, ACE Program Coordinator email@example.com
Greg Hunt, Claims Analyst Samantha Wren, RMF Paralegal firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Cindy Posey, Accountant firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Mitchell, Administrative Assistant Becky Comet, Member Benefits Manager email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsey French, Legal Counsel email@example.com Christy L. Smith, Communications Director firstname.lastname@example.org
COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
County Lines County Lines [(ISSN 2576-1137 (print) and ISSN 2576-1145 (online)] is the official publication of the AAC. It is published quarterly. For advertising inquiries, subscriptions or other information, please contact Christy L. Smith at 501.372.7550. Executive Director/Publisher Chris Villines Communications Director/ Managing Editor Christy L. Smith Communications Coordinator/ Editor Holland Doran
AAC Executive Board: Debbie Wise – President Brandon Ellison – Vice President Jimmy Hart – Secretary-Treasurer Tommy Young Terri Harrison Debra Buckner Dana Baker Kevin Cleghorn Terry McNatt Debbie Cross Brenda DeShields Ellen Foote Doug Curtis Gerone Hobbs Marty Boyd John Montgomery Heather Stevens David Thompson National Association of Counties (NACo) Board Affiliations Debbie Wise: NACo board member. She is Randolph County Circuit Clerk and president of the AAC Board of Directors. Brandon Ellison: NACo board member. He is Polk County Judge and vice-president of the AAC Board of Directors. Ted Harden: Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Steering Committee. He is a member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court. David Hudson: Chair of Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Sebastian Co. Judge and member of Rural Action Caucus Steering Committee and IT Standing Committee. Barry Hyde: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is the Pulaski County Judge. Rusty McMillon: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Greene County Judge Joseph Wood: Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee. He is Washington County Judge. Kevin Smith: IT Standing Committee. He is the Sebastian County Director of Information Technology Services. Gerone Hobbs: Membership Committee. He is the Pulaski County Coroner. Paul Ellliot: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee, vice-chair of law enforcement subcommittee. He is a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court. Ellen Foote: Community, Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee. She is the Crittenden County Tax Collector. Tawanna Brown:Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committe. She is Crittenden County Chief Computer Operator.
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Update on legislative session, American Rescue Plan money
hen this issue hits your hands, we will either have adjourned the 93rd General Assembly, recessed awaiting census figures or be in the Chris Villines process of rushing to completion. Very probAAC ably a combination of the second and third, which means we Executive Director will be close to wrapping up but still awaiting critical census numbers required for congressional redistricting. I am asked often during a session how the counties are faring, and to be honest it is only after the dust settles that you can take a broad view of where we really stand. I can tell you that our legislative package is proceeding along nicely. This package of legislation is put together by you at a county level — a true grassroots effort. Many people don’t realize that the vast majority of the legislative package we put forth at the AAC is actually voted on three times before it even reaches the Capitol. Your individual association will vote and send it on to the statewide legislative committee. They will then vote to send it on to the AAC Board of Directors. The final vote by the AAC Board puts forth the roughly 25 to 30 bills we regularly adopt as our goal for the session. With only a couple of exceptions the AAC legislative package is moving through the chambers, with many of our ideas already signed into law. By my count, as of this writing, 16 acts have been signed by the Governor already that came directly from you. I am very proud of the efforts of our policy team, which includes Mark Whitmore, Lindsey French, Josh Curtis and Eddie Jones, and their magnificent efforts to plant, water and raise these bills to maturity. There is no finer team to work with. I can’t imagine tracking 500 bills with anyone else in the world. In the meanwhile, COVID is taking a continued toll on the legislative process. Many of you would have been testifying more but this session is, shall we say, unwieldy when it comes to this. The good news is case counts continue to drop and vaccinations appear to be making a substantial impact. I suspect things will be opening up a bit more. The rotunda is usually hard to move through — not true this session. Echoes of laughter and deep conversations have been replaced with the sound of occasional footsteps. Many of the same bills we see session after session have been filed again with a new twist. We are watching them closely for all of you. As we progress to the end you will all continue to be informed of these bills and given an increasing opportunity to discuss with committees and legislators. Unfortunately, the end of a session lends itself to quickly introduced and run bills, so please stay tuned in to our updates — and please feel free to call with questions if you see a bill you don’t understand. Believe me when I tell you we see a lot of bills that are head-scratchers for us too. I do want to share a couple of specific issues that we continue to deal with. As many of you know, I cover retirement bills for you and have done what I can to keep you all up to speed on what changes would be proposed this session. As expected, the APERS Board of Trustees package of bills has passed. These three bills (now acts) will take effect July 1, 2022. The Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees will drop to the lesser of 3 percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) moving forward — but ONLY for people first hired into an APERS cov>>> 7
ered position on or after July 1, 2022. This is ACT 366. Secondly, contributory members will see an increase in the contribution they must pay into the APERS system. This contribution rate sits at 5 percent now, but will begin a rise to 7 percent over the next eight years, also beginning on July 1, 2022. Each year will see an increase of 0.25 percent until it reaches the 7 percent figure on July 1, 2029. This is ACT 365. Thirdly, and this is a change from what the APERS board had voted on, there will be a change in the Final Average Compensation (FAC) calculation, but instead of applying to existing members it will apply only to those first hired on or after July 1, 2022. For those new hires who eventually reach retirement, the FAC will expand to a five-year average instead of the three-year average. Those already in the system will continue to use the three-year average. This is ACT 370. There are several other bills running in retirement — some good, some not so good. Please stay tuned to our communication channels as we get close to the end. Next I would like to turn your attention to a series of bills that are being run that are strongly supported by our law enforcement. I am not going to get into the details on them because as you will see later in this issue there is extensive coverage. The “Back the Blue” package of legislation is important for all law enforcement in our state, and our sheriffs have long-needed some of the training, financing and, well,
love that is being shown them in these bills. While we knew there would be movement in this session to push Governor Hutchinson’s task force recommendations, it has been a breath of fresh air to see incredible support in the legislature. Please take the time to read AAC Law Clerk Dorothy Spector’s article on “Back the Blue” in this issue. The state of law enforcement in Arkansas will hopefully be given some opportunities in this session that have long-lasting positive impacts on generations to come. Please get yourselves ready for some major financial influxes with even more major responsibilities under the recently signed American Rescue Plan (ARP). I think many of us have learned that one of the most dangerous things in our fiscal lives is money without a plan to spend it. This is about to happen, or at least appear to happen when ARP checks are deposited into county and municipal bank accounts. The problem is, there is a plan on how it can be spent — but it may come after you receive money. Also, please know that the vast majority of this money will be used for recovery in our communities, not for the county coffers. ARP simply shifts the decision-making on where this money goes to a local level. We are working diligently to present counties with a system that provides answers on how money can and cannot be spent. There’s no way to cover all of this just yet, but expect some very important communications from us in the coming days.
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Officials adapt and lead during crises
fter a year of adapting to all the operational changes required by the COVID-19 pandemic, counties faced a new challenge less than 60 days into the new year. Historic winter storms battered our state, bringing snow and freezing temperatures unseen in Arkansas for decades. Washington County reported temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Some parts of Clark County reported snow as deep as 20 inches. And, at the Barling Lock and Dam in Sebastian County, the Arkansas River actually froze. These are the stories we’ll be telling our grandchildren for years to come. However, there is another story we should tell them, as well. It is the story of how adaptive county government officials are; how their leadership and foresight while praying for the best but preparing for the worst set the stage for Arkansas to rebound; how our partnerships with other agencies helped to save not only infrastructure, but also lives. Counties faced tremendous challenges during the storm. Roads were impassable. County buildings experienced collapsed roofs and ceilings, and frozen water pipes, and flood damage. For instance, the Miller County Courthouse had several water pipes burst, leaving floors in six inches of standing water. As a result, several county officials and courtrooms have been temporarily relocated to another building. By some accounts, the damage could be in the millions — and the temporary relocation of offices could last up to 18 months while the courthouse is being repaired. But rather than dwell on such tragedies, I would like to cast a spotlight on the brave men and women who kept our communities functional. Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an executive order directing additional funding to the state’s Division of Emergency Management to be used in response to the storm, and emergency management officials worked closely with local governments
to determine immediate needs. State Highway crews, city street crews and county road crews were prepared in advance to tackle the effects the unprecedented weather conditions would have on our thoroughfares. They acted quickly and DEBBIE WISE worked around the clock to clear the AAC Board President; snow and to treat the ice. Randolph County Circuit Clerk Our law enforcement agencies helped rescue stranded motorists, and utility companies did everything they could to keep the electricity on and to minimize the rolling blackouts that were implemented in some areas. Local TV and radio stations kept us informed every step of the way, and neighbors reached out to help neighbors in need. In Jefferson County, for example, the water pressure at the courthouse and other facilities was at dangerously low levels. Plumbing services and cities near Pine Bluff helped provide water so those facilities could maintain sanitary conditions. I could go on about the leadership examples that were set across the board. It is often said that in perilous times, look for the helpers. And there were so many who helped during what will go down in history as one of Arkansas’ most severe snowstorms. I believe it also will serve as a reminder of just how important our mutual support, partnerships and teamwork help us to continue serving our counties to the best of our abilities.
Debbie Wise Debbie Wise Randolph County Circuit Clerk / AAC Board President
75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
FROM THE GOVERNOR
n a news conference [on Feb. 26], I announced that I was renewing the state of emergency through March 31. I also announced that we would be keeping the mask mandate through March 31, as well. In the days before March 31, we will consider whether we can convert the mask directive to a guidance, which is just that — guidance. Adherence is voluntary, and there is no penalty for a violation. We must meet one of two benchmarks in order to lift the mask mandate. If we are testing an average of 7,500 a day with PCR and antigen tests and have a daily positivity rate of less than 10 percent, we will convert from a mask directive to guidance that strongly encourages masks but doesn’t require them. At the end of the month, if we haven’t met the threshold of 7,500 tests, then we can look at the number of hospitalizations. If the number of COVID patients in hospitals is less than 750 statewide, that will allow us to lift the mask mandate. I also announced that since our COVID-19 numbers have been moving in the right direction, the secretary of health and I decided we could safely take some steps toward more normal lives. This includes converting all restrictions on businesses to less-restrictive guidance. I have heard good reports since our announcement. Eric Buckner, who owns 10 Fitness gyms, said older clients have been returning. He said, “It’s nice to see some of our longtime members we haven’t seen in a while.” Eric also said the mask mandate has been helpful because it gave small businesses authority to enforce it. He said, “We wouldn’t have been able to stay in business without the mandate. It was a common-sense directive to keep people safe without destroy-
ing a business.” Since the announcement, some restaurants have seen their business pick up overnight. Candy Wilkerson, owner of Capitol Smokehouse in downtown Little Rock, closed for seven weeks in Hon. ASA the spring. She has chosen to HuTCHINSON remain at 66 percent capacity Governor of Arkansas for now. She said the pandemic has been a struggle but that the Smokehouse is starting to come back. We can’t keep the directives in place forever, and this cautious approach offers flexibility for our small businesses. We are able to loosen up a bit because Arkansans have followed the directives. We have vaccinated nearly 10 percent of our 3 million population, and as more people get the vaccine, our number of cases will continue to fall. We are not in the end zone. I encourage you to follow the Health Department guidelines and get your vaccine as soon as you can. If the numbers start to rise again, we may have to renew the state of emergency on March 31. I encourage you to continue all the things you’ve done to put us at this point so we don’t have to go back. Let’s keep working together to push the pandemic out of the Natural State.
Asa Hutchinson The Honorable Asa Hutchinson Governor of Arkansas
Governor expresses priorities in State of the State Address Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivered his State of the State Address to the 93rd General Assembly on Jan. 12. It was his final time to address the General Assembly in a regular legislative session. He welcomed the more than 20 newly elected members of the legislature, discussed the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had had on daily life, and stressed his belief in the foundations of democracy. He expressed his legislative priorities: boosting the economy; supporting and training law enforcement; and rewarding teachers; among other things. He said another priority is getting COVID-19 vaccinations distributed to Arkansans. — Photo by Governor’s Staff COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
AG Opinions: from felony ordinances to ‘hold overs’ in office AG OPINION NO. 2021-012 The AG explained the application of the principle of “hold over.” The Arkansas Constitution, Article 19, Section 5, is clear that an incumbent remains in the position until their successor is elected and qualified. The person elected to represent District 4 in the November election, now no longer desires to hold the position and refuses to take the oath of office. Thus, a vacancy is not created. Therefore, the incumbent desires to remain as the justice of the peace for District 4 until a successor is elected and qualified. The Quorum Court may not call for a special election. The incumbent is entitled to continue in office until the next general election, when a successor will presumably be elected. An office is deemed vacant when for some reason — such as death, resignation, removal, or abandonment — there is no incumbent to discharge the duties. An elective office occupied by a holdover pursuant to Ark. Const. Art. 19, § 5, cannot be considered vacant. AG OPINION NO. 2020-043 The AG explained the application of the county judge under Arkansas law to maintain public bridges and public roads including the right of way. The county has the authority and discretion to remove vegetation within the road maintenance easement or right of way. Maintenance and removal of vegetation is necessary to avoid interference with the maintenance of the road and to maintain public safety. Where the public acquires a right of way the acquisition includes the authority to maintain the easement and the vegetation within. AG OPINION NO. 2020-027 This AG Opinion explains some limitations on the eligi-
bility of the homestead property tax credit under Amendment 79 of the Arkansas Constitution. The AG explained that a homestead is a dwelling of a person Mark Whitmore that is used as a principal place AAC Chief Counsel of residence along with the contiguous lands (excluding lands valued as agriculture, pasture or timberland). A limited liability corporation is not a natural person residing at “his” or “her” dwelling, and not entitled to a homestead credit.
AG OPINION NO. 2019-070 The request involved the construction on a privately owned multi-county corrections facility. Ark. Code 19-11801 deals with agreements by the state and political subdivisions for professional services. The law allows counties to elect by two-thirds vote to procure other professional services such as the holding of state, city, county and federal detainees. The county attorney is the best resource for determining the lawful means of entering into contracts for regional jails in Arkansas. The Corrections Cooperative Endeavors and Private Management Act provides for an interlocal agreement between the state and counties concerning the incarceration of state and/or county inmates. Ark. Code 12-50-106 provides for contracts up to 20 years for the provision of correctional services or for the lease and use of public lands or buildings for the use in operation of correctional facilities. The law provides for counties to contract with a private entity to build and thereafter operate a corrections facility. (The first multicounty regional jail was recently created in Arkansas by virtue of the Corrections Cooperative Endeavors Management Act).
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COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
SEEMS TO ME... Civility remains a major problem
enowned actress Olivia De Havilland said, “It’s hard to keep on being civil when they ask you such annoying questions.” It is sometimes hard to be civil, but it’s not impossible. In county government we should all be promoting the concepts and practice of civility in public meetings and our interactions with one another. Yes, your words and your communication style matter. Think before you speak. My last County Lines article was about how to run a meeting the right way. In the last two paragraphs of that article I alluded to civility. In this article I will delve deeper into the ethic of civility — morally acceptable behavior towards fellow human beings. I’ve heard it said that the people who are good at being civil often lack strong convictions, and people who have strong convictions often lack civility. Although one might make a case for an element of truth in that statement, it does not have to be that way. First of all, who could be so shallow as to believe that their positions are 100 percent correct and that anyone who does not think and believe just as they do are 100 percent wrong? If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we are not always correct about everything. No man nor woman alive today has the scope of knowledge and intelligence to know everything. Even though government and politics is rough and tough, we are all human beings first and foremost. That is why it is so important for us to have civil dialogue. We are not all cut from the same cloth nor cast in the same mold. If we were, we could just let one person call all the shots, and we would all be hunky-dory. But we are all different and have different ideas about how government should work. That’s why one person does not call all the shots. We have a Constitution in the United States that establishes a federal democratic republic form of government. The major difference between a democracy and a republic is that a republic is a form of government whereas a democracy is an ideology that helps shape how a government is run. Put another way: a republic is the system of government that allows a country to be democratic. All democracies are characterized by a shared ideology or system of beliefs. Democracies have four foundational characteristics: (1) free and fair elections; (2) citizen participation; (3) protection of citizen human rights; and (4) rule of law. If elections are how citizens make their voices heard, then laws are the ways that citizens’ desires are enforced. Laws are a tool people can use to make sure ideals of democracy like freedom and basic human rights are maintained. Rule of law is the cornerstone of all democratic societies. And democracies 14
begin to crack and crumble when there is a lack of civility. From our flame-throwing politics to our ever-widening divisions on cultural hot-button issues, there’s plenty going on to get riled up about. A recent poll Eddie A. Jones by Weber Shandwick Powell Tate finds County Consultant that the vast majority of Americans — a whopping 93 percent — identify a civility problem with most classifying it as a major problem. Sixty-three percent of Americans say the impact of social media on civility has been more negative than positive. Fifty-four percent of Americans expect the general tone and level of civility in the country to decline even further during the next few years. But there was some good news. Despite the unwavering sentiment that America has a civility problem in government and politics, a positive note is sounded on the general level of civility in the workplace. About 89 percent of Americans who work with others describe their place of employment as very or somewhat civil. A civil workplace affects job performance in positive ways. It will in government and politics, too, so we need to put it to use. Civil discourse is key to a healthy democracy. Civility involves competing sets of “right” values: the value of free expression versus the value of respect for fellow participants in the democratic process. Critics have attributed the erosion of civility in society to the elevation of self-expression over self-control. This is a fairly easy ethical dilemma to resolve insofar as it is possible to be both expressive and civil, and therefore maximize both values. There is an argument that more people will be inclined to participate in a public deliberative process that focuses on the merits and demerits of an issue, as opposed to focusing on personal attacks. Civility refers to the way people treat each other with respect, even when they disagree. Even though disagreement and confrontation play a necessary role in government and politics, the issue is how that disagreement is expressed. The key is to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of proposed solutions to problems, not to engage in personal attacks against those who favor different solutions. Government’s inability to deal with a broad range of problems results from the destructive way in which issues are addressed. There is a “reap-what-you-sow” element to our actions. If public officials themselves attack their fellow officeholders, who can blame the public for believing the attacks and engaging in the same kind of attacks? If personal attacks permeate the interactions of public officials, there is the COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
AAC significant risk that all participants will be tarred by the same brush. And many times the media “stokes the fires of negativity” by emphasizing such attacks in their coverage rather than the issue itself. Weak as the case is, some make a case against civility. Some say civility just reinforces the status quo in terms of power relationships. Or that what really matters is not who is more civil, but who wins. That is very simplistic and caters to our flawed character as human. We can be and should be better than that. The quest for civility has merit for public officials. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations are instructive: “In a neighborhood dispute there may be stunts, rough words, and even hot insults; but when a whole people speaks to its government, the dialogue and the action must be on a level reflecting the worth of that people and the responsibility of that government.” King’s admonition to his listeners to set their standards of discourse high, irrespective of how others behave, is consistent with the quote from Gandhi, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Or as Mark Twain observed in “Pudd’nhead Wilson”: “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” It may be annoying at times, but a good example helps pull the rest of us in line. I don’t believe civility can be legislated any more than morality can be legislated. Laws can be enacted governing civility and morality, and people may pay the price for breaking those laws. But people make a choice to be civil or not just like they make a choice to be a moral or immoral person. I agree with the Greek philosopher Aristotle who believed that virtuous behavior had to be voluntary and that civility is a form of virtuous behavior. Let me remind you what civility actually means. It’s sometimes defined as simply being polite. While it can refer to politeness, it’s much more than that. Civility comes from the Latin root civilis, meaning “befitting a citizen.” Civility is the baseline of respect we owe one another in public life. So how do we achieve more civility in public discourse? Here are a few suggestions: • Separate people from the problem. Recognize that other thoughtful and caring people have different views on how best to address the problem. Focus on solutions that are most likely to be successful. Avoid resolving disputes on the basis of “us versus them” animosity and seek the relative merits of completing problem-solving strategies. • Obtain the facts. Many public policy disputes involve factual disagreements that are amenable to resolution through some type of fact-finding process. Work together to resolve factual disagreements wherever possible. There are, of course, times when separate studies have concluded “competing facts.” When this is true, contending parties need to publicly explain the reasoning behind their COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
SEEMS TO ME...
differing interpretation of the factual information that is available. That can be done in a civil manner. Limit interpersonal misunderstandings. Make an honest and continuing effort to understand the views and reasoning of your opponents. As much as we want to believe that we are 100 percent correct about everything, we aren’t. Use fair processes. Genuinely solicit and consider public input. Make decisions on the basis of substantive arguments. Keep trying to persuade and allow yourself to be persuaded. One crucial element of civility is the recognition by conflicting parties that it is possible they are wrong and the policies advocated by their opponents are actually better. Seriously consider the persuasive arguments made by your opponents and explain your own position. Another strategy for civility is to identify the biggest redeeming quality of that person who’s always driving you crazy. Keep it in mind the next time the two of you interact.
Before I close, I want to talk about one more thing — Gadflies. The connotation that comes with the term “gadfly” is not usually very becoming. But I want to look at them a little differently. Virtually every community has them: individuals who show up at every meeting to voice their complaints, often repetitiously and sometimes with a tenuous grip on reality and the facts. I don’t believe anyone has a magic solution to the problem that these individuals’ contributions to public meetings create, often by crowding out others who have more specific and constructive reasons for wanting to share their views with the state legislative committee, the quorum court, the city council, the school board, or any public government meeting. In a book called “City Silly Hall,” written by City Manager Rich Holmer there is a chapter on gadflies. One particularly poignant account is of Jake, a longtime community resident who ultimately fell on hard times. Here’s an excerpt: As for Jake, we saw less and less of him [over the years]. His attendance at council and historical society meetings became less frequent. He looked withered and thinner, many times un-shaven, and wearing the same wool shirt. The chief had told me his officers had rousted him on more than one occasion for sleeping in the parks or in his truck. It was a crisp December night and I had just exited early from a transit tax meeting. I began the 10-mile drive See
SEEMS TO ME...
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home [and]… Starbucks…beckoned to me. As the door closed behind me, I was taken aback to see Jake sitting at a table, newspapers covering its top, and a large cup of coffee sitting precariously at its edge. He looked up and our eyes met. I walked over and gave him an obligatory handshake. We exchanged small talk and he mentioned that the police chief should let people sleep in their automobiles. I said it was good seeing him. I excused myself to purchase coffee and started to pay the cashier when Jake rushed over and said he wanted to buy the coffee. I protested; here was a homeless person buying me a cup of coffee. It didn’t feel right but I stepped aside and said, “Thank you, Jake.” When I turned around, he was gone. As I gazed out at the clear night sky, I remembered the second meaning of a gadfly: “A person who rouses you from complacency.” I knew I had been presented a precious gift that evening. Gadflies undoubtedly have many different motivations. One theory is that there is a sense of personal importance and belonging that goes with their regular participation in public meetings. Another is that they truly believe there are wrongs that need to be righted and, of course, sometimes the gadflies are right. The bottom line is that gadflies are an intrinsic aspect of democracy, and there really is no “solution” to gadflies except to try to understand what motivates them and appreciate the underlying democratic principle they represent. The worst strategy, of course, is to allow yourself to respond in kind to the type of angry, personal attacks gadflies are known to
make. Many times we treat others badly not because we don’t understand how people should be treated but because we don’t really consider them people if they disagree with us Democracy relies on people being willing to engage in the marketplace of ideas. But this can only happen if we can relearn how to listen to one another, work together, and use our words to persuade, rather than divide. Too many Americans refuse to entertain the possibility that an opponent might be a decent human being despite being wrong about an issue. So instead of conversations that might change minds, we reduce our debates to toxic confrontations. We have to do better. On a personal level we can each do things to improve civility, such as: • • • •
Make an effort to be civil when treated uncivilly; Encourage family, friends and coworkers to be civil; Vote for political leaders who behave in a civil way; Commit to one act of civility (say or do something nice) regularly; and • Speak up against or do something about incivility. A great deal more can be said on this important subject of civility in government, and it would be naïve to suggest that following the strategies outlined would guarantee that others will follow your example. But we must lead. Regrettably, the necessity or the sine qua non of ethical behavior is that it involves risks and possible personal costs. But the potential reward for such risks is more respect for your leadership and a greater sense of public confidence in government.
We want to hear from YOU Tell us your good news. Be sure to let us know if an aspect of county government “made news” recently in your county. Or if your county officials or staff get an award, appointment or pat on the back. We want the whole state to know about your successes and accomplishments. Contact Communications Director Christy L. Smith at email@example.com.
COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
‘Little ‘ole bill that really doesn’t do much’
t’s a “little ‘ole bill that really doesn’t do much” is a saying you may hear in legislative committees or on the House and Senate floors. That is usually followed by the expression, “I’d appreciate a good vote.” In my experience there really are not many simple bills that fly through the legislative process. The process can be slow and unpredictable. I often would like to say a bill is simple and we shouldn’t have problems getting it passed, but you never know what is going to happen in committee or on the chamber floors. Most of you know how the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) Board of Directors develops a legislative package. It is done through multiple meetings of our nine member associations, legislative committee and AAC Board. Last year, of course, Covid altered that schedule. However, at the end of the day the member associations offered some good ideas, and we built a solid legislative package of approximately 25 bills. The AAC package of bills is always our primary focus during the legislative session. Most of our bills are normally “clean up bills” or process bills. Some contain small technical corrections dealing with outdated law. Most of the time you think it’s a “little ‘ole bill that doesn’t really do much,” but it turns into something rather complex or even controversial. One such bill last session ended up having many unintended consequences. The fire protection district bill supported by the Arkansas County Tax Collector’s Association started out as a way to allow all 75 tax collectors to collect improvement district fees in a consistent fashion. It ended up being amended so much that we no longer recognized it. The bill passed into law, and that law quickly became the County Judges Association of Arkansas’ No. 1 law to repeal in 2021. Luckily, the bill sponsor agreed there were some problems and committed to fixing those problems to the satisfaction of the judges while keeping the collectors whole. Sometimes bill sponsors do not want to work with the AAC at first, but then they eventually listen. We make an effort to understand what they are trying to accomplish. On many bills, we agree with the goals of a legislator but do not agree on how to accomplish those goals. Counties have a good reputation for at least trying to work through issues
with legislators. Still, sometimes we cannot help to accomplish all of the legislators’ objectives. One legislator recently had a package of bills the AAC opposed. We worked with that member and came to an agreement on a couple of the bills. The Josh Curtis legislator and the AAC agreed we Governmental Affairs wouldn’t find common ground on Director the remainder of the bills. The AAC had a commitment to our membership to state our opposition to those bills, and the legislator was OK with the bills dying in committee if the committee also opposed them. The unexpected questions and quarrels between legislators can derail that “little ‘ole bill that really doesn’t do much.” One of the AAC package bills this session dealing with good government got all kinds of off-the-topic questions, and we had to pull it. We were able to meet with members of the legislative committee and help them to understand what we were trying to accomplish. They passed the bill out of committee the next time they met. In another committee, a simple cleanup bill got caught up in a leftover debate from the day before. You never know what you will run into when presenting a bill. The session so far this year has been unlike any other. We hate that our county elected officials cannot be on the hill everyday like normal. With all the new Covid-19 rules and precautions, the marble floors in the Capitol building have seen little traffic this year. But I know you are still being active during this session. Many legislators have approached policy team members to tell us their constituents back home are still calling and texting them. Your communication with your representatives and senators may have changed slightly, but I have seen that it is just as effective as if you were here in person. I commend you all for doing your part and keeping that communication open during this strange year. We appreciate the officials that have come to the Capitol when we have called on them. Often you do not end up testifying before committee, but we all must be prepared for anything that may come our way.
75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
LEGAL CORNER Constitutional amendments filed in the 2021 Regular Session of the 93rd General Assembly
he deadline for members of the Arkansas General Assembly to file constitutional amendments to be referred to a vote of the people was Feb. 10, 2021. The General Assembly may pass up to three of these amendments during this regular session. This article provides a brief synopsis of the constitutional amendments that were filed, 25 in the House and 18 in the Senate, some of which are companion or mirror bills, as indicated. HJR1001/SJR10 — Rep. Fran Cavenaugh (R), Sen. Breanne Davis (R); To authorize the General Assembly to call a special session by a joint proclamation of the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate. HJR1002 — Rep. David Tollett (R); To remove the requirement that a school millage appear on the ballot of an annual school election if there is no change to the current millage rate. HJR1003 — Rep. Michelle Gray (R), Sen. James Sturch (R); To lower the minimum population threshold of a city from 5,000 to 1,000 for purposes of filing a petition to levy a tax to construct and/or maintain a library. HJR1004 — Rep. Stephen Meeks (R); To allow the General Assembly to reduce or eliminate personal property taxes or to create exemptions for personal property taxes; to eliminate personal property taxes by 2047; to repeal the requirement that real and personal property be taxed at the same rate; to allow tax levies to provide for public libraries by local election to apply to personal property, real property, or both. HJR1005 — Rep. David Ray (R), Sen. Bart Hester (R); To require a 60 percent approval by the General Assembly to refer a constitutional amendment for a vote of the people; To require a 60 percent approval by vote of the people to approve a constitutional amendment by referendum or initiative. HJR1006 — Rep. Fran Cavenaugh (R); To create a petition procedure for recall of certain elected officials, including state constitutional officers, members of the General Assembly, and judicial officers. It does not apply to county, district, or township officials. HJR1007 — Rep. Fred Love (D); To create a Citizens Commission on Minimum Wage to have sole authority over 18
amending the minimum wage in Arkansas. The General Assembly would have no authority to amend the minimum wage.
HJR1008 — Rep DeAnn Vaught (R); To require that ballot initiatives and referendums be approved by 60 percent rather than a simple majority. HJR1009 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R); To rename the State Highway Commission to the State Transportation Commission; to strip the commission of its autonomy and to provide increased legislative oversight over the Commission; to appoint a Secretary of Transportation rather than Director of Highways, whose duties would be prescribed by the General Assembly rather than the Commission. HJR 1010 — Rep. Joe Cloud (R); To retroactively remove the authority of the Arkansas Racing Commission to issue a casino license in Pope County. HJR1011 — Rep. Joe Cloud (R); To make approval of a casino license in Pope County contingent upon a local option election by submission of a petition of 10 percent of qualified electors of the county. HJR1012 — Rep. John Payton (R); To revise the duties of certain constitutional officers (this is currently a shell bill). HJR1013 — Rep. John Payton (R); To revise the duties of certain constitutional officers (this is currently a shell bill). HJR1014/SJR8 — Rep. Lee Johnson (R), Sen. Missy Irvin (R); To authorize the General Assembly to set limits on punitive and noneconomic damages that may be awarded to a claimant in actions for injury to persons or property (a version of “tort reform”). HJR1015/SJR7 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R), Sen. Bob Ballinger (R); To authorize the General Assembly, by a three-fifths vote, to prescribe rules of pleading, practice, procedure, and evidence for all courts of law; these rules would supersede any conflicting rules passed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
HJR1016 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R); To revise the rules of pleading, practice, procedure, and evidence of the courts (this is currently a shell bill).
bly to call a special session by submitting petitions signed by a majority of both chambers to the Governor. Business would be restricted to the purposes listed in the petition.
HJR1017 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R); To provide that certain elected officials be elected on a partisan basis (this is currently a shell bill).
SJR3 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To eliminate sovereign immunity for the State and allow the State to be sued in a circuit court like any other party.
HJR1018 — Rep. Robin Lundstrum, Sen. Jane English (R); To extend Arkansas lottery scholarship and grant eligibility to Arkansas citizens enrolled in technical institutes or vocational-technical colleges.
SJR4 — Sen. Mark Johnson (R); To eliminate specific requirements for funding public schools (as determined by the Lake View School District v. Huckabee Supreme Court case); to vest sole authority for the specifics of funding public schools with the General Assembly.
HJR1019 — Rep. Robin Lundstrum, Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R); To amend Amendment 80, providing that Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals, circuit, and district judges be elected on a partisan basis. HJR1020 — Rep. Josh Miller (R); Concerning fines and restrictions on frivolous lawsuits (this is currently a shell bill). HJR1021 — Rep. Vivian Flowers (D); To prohibit slavery or indentured servitude as punishment for a crime. HJR1022 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R); To amend the powers of the General Assembly and Arkansas Supreme Court to mirror the Federal Rules Enabling Act (this is currently a shell bill). HJR1023/SJR13 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R), Sen. Jason Rapert (R); To expand on Arkansas citizens’ right to keep and bear arms; to prohibit the state or a political subdivision of the state from infringing on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. HRJ1024/SJR14 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R), Sen. Jason Rapert (R); to limit the state or local government from infringing on a citizen’s freedom of religion only when there is a compelling state interest to do so and the means implemented is the least restrictive means available; to provide a claim or defense for an Arkansas citizen whose freedom of religion is burdened by state or local government. HJR1025 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R); To vest in jurors the sole authority to determine the amount of compensation awarded for, or civil penalty imposed because of, injuries to persons or property. SJR1 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To amend short-term financing for municipalities; to allow municipalities to utilize 10year financing for acquisition of fire trucks. SJR2 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To allow the General AssemCOUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
SJR5 — Sen. Jason Rapert (R); To amend the manner in which primary elections are held (this is currently a shell bill). SJR6 — Sen. Clarke Tucker (D), Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R); To require the General Assembly to establish a revised elections process for general elections, special elections, and elections for nonpartisan offices; all candidates would be listed on a single ballot regardless of party affiliation. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes would advance to the general election. SJR11 — Sen. Greg Leding (D), Sen. Jay Richardson (D); To create an implied warranty of habitability in Arkansas; to decriminalize failure to pay rent or failure to vacate; to prohibit certain terms and conditions from being included in rental agreements. SJR12 — Sen. Greg Leding (D); To amend laws regarding qualifications to vote in elections (this is currently a shell bill). SJR15 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To require the Governor to convene the General Assembly into special session within 24 hours of declaring an emergency by executive order or proclamation. SJR16 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To provide that interscholastic or intramural athletic programs sponsored by a public school shall be specifically designated based on biological sex, and that teams designed for females shall not be open to biological males and vice versa. SJR17 — Sen. Bob Ballinger (R), Rep. Justin Gonzales (R); To provide for a constitutional review of certain federal provisions prior to their implementation (this is currently a shell bill). SJR18 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To amend the United States Constitution to provide that the United States Supreme Court shall consist of nine Justices (this is currently a shell bill). 19
The first 72 hours: judicial appearances
reetings, sheriffs, jail administrators, deputies, and jailers. I have spoken to many of you at CLEST trainings and other gatherings about first judicial appearances. But it’s never a bad time to remind you about an important constitutional rule: every detained person must be given a first appearance before a judge without unnecessary delay. The Fourth Amendment requires a determination of probable cause to detain, by a judicial officer, as a condition for any significant pretrial liberty restraint. This is sometimes referred to as the “72-hour rule,” but the rule as expressed in Rule 8.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure says, “An arrested person who is not released by citation or by other lawful manner shall be taken before a judicial officer without unnecessary delay.” The rule applies whether a person is arrested by warrant or without a warrant — all arrestees are entitled to a prompt judicial appearance, without unnecessary delay. Arkansas Rule 4.1 requires a “reasonable cause determination” by a judge within 48 hours of an arrest without a warrant, but that determination “may be made at the first appearance of the arrested person pursuant to Rule 8.1.” Thus, you need not distinguish between arrests with or without a warrant, if you follow the rule applicable to all arrestees/ detainees: every detained person must be given a first appearance before a judge without unnecessary delay. Failure to ensure a prompt first appearance violates the detainee’s constitutional rights — regardless of whether the detainee was arrested by or being held for a different agency, whether a prosecutor wants a person detained at length, or whether a judge is available for a prompt first appearance. When a detainee’s constitutional rights are violated by detention without a prompt first appearance, liability falls on the “keeper of the keys.” Again, regardless of whether the detainee was arrested by a different agency, regardless of any hold requests, and regardless of whether judges make themselves available, if a court determines that a detainee was held for too long without a prompt judicial determination of probable cause at a first appearance, YOU are liable. In Arkansas, creative lawyers have convinced courts to authorize class actions against jails that have repeatedly failed to ensure prompt first appearances for detainees. For systemic and widespread failures, these cases can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages assessed against the county and county officials. This is why I preach about this issue ad nauseum. To my knowledge, Arkansas counties are doing a great job of ensuring prompt first appearances for detainees, as constitutionally required. To ensure ongoing compliance and limit the risk of liability, we recommend that you have a written policy requiring that all detainees be provided a 20
first judicial appearance without unnecessary delay — always within 72 hours of the beginning of detention. We recommend that your policy and custom be to notify your court every day about those in need of an appearance Colin Jorgensen and to transport each detainee to Risk Management court for a first appearance every Litigation Counsel day until it happens. Document every effort made to secure a first appearance for each detainee, including communications with the court and transports. First appearances can be done by video conference and can be performed by a district judge with authority from the administrative circuit judge of your judicial district. Video first appearances are an excellent solution for everyone involved — cheaper, logistically easier, and faster. Talk to AAC Risk Management Services about the Justice Bridge program if you are not already doing first appearances by video conference. If you are unable to secure a first judicial appearance for a detainee within 72 hours (hopefully quicker in most cases), we recommend that your policy be to release the detainee at 72 hours, with notification to the court and prosecutor. Prosecutors and judges may not like this policy, but they will not be held liable for unconstitutional detention because they are not the keeper of the keys. And when they realize that you will not hold detainees longer than three days without a first judicial appearance, they may take action to ensure that you are able to provide prompt first appearances, such as scheduling a routine time on Saturdays or Sundays for first appearances. Finally, I cannot fully cover release and alternative commitment in a single article along with first appearances, but it is worth noting that Arkansas sheriffs have authority to release detainees under certain circumstances — separate from the recommended release of arrestees if they do not have a first judicial appearance within three days. If the jail is at capacity, there is no duty to accept and detain any arrestee. If an arrestee is charged with only a misdemeanor or misdemeanors, you can cite and release the arrestee rather than detain. If an arrestee is charged with a felony, you can cite and release the arrestee with the prosecutor’s approval. And if not prohibited by a court order, you can utilize alternative commitment for convicted detainees — allowing them to serve their sentence outside the jail via electronic monitoring, community service, home confinement, or weekend commitment. If you have any questions about the issues discussed above, please feel free to contact me at (501) 372-7947 or at CJorgensen@ARCounties.org. Thank you for your service, as always. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
WELLNESS & SAFETY
Take good care of your body so your body will take good care of you
y most recent articles for County Lines have been focused on Covid-related issues, for obvious reasons. I want to shift gears this time and discuss the need to maintain a state of good general physical health. According to Veronique Hoebeke, an author for the wellness website www.rtor.org, the five aspects of physical wellness are sleep, eating well, physical activity, hygiene, and relaxation. Take care of these five areas, and your body will be better prepared to respond when a health crisis arises. Conventional wisdom tells us that most people require eight hours of sleep per night to stay healthy and alert. Lack of sleep can make us feel sluggish and fatigued. And sleep deprivation can cause a host of problems — memory issues, weight gain, and even a compromised immune system. When you sleep your brain takes information stored in your short-term memory and moves it to longterm memory. If you are not getting adequate sleep, that process is hindered. Many studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to increased hunger and decreased levels of feeling full. This leads to overeating and weight gain. Studies also show that an insufficient amount of sleep can affect your immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight off infection and prevent illness. Furthermore, it can make it harder for your body to recover if you do become ill. The next aspect of good general health is eating well. There are so many different schools of thought on what eating well means. I will not outline any particular program nor “weigh in” with an opinion on them. However, eating well is important. According to Hoebeke, “Much like sleep, your body likes consistency when it comes to what and when you eat. Regularly eating healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains will give you the nutrients that not only support your body’s vital functions but can balance your mental well-being as well.” I feel strongly about limiting refined sugar and highly processed foods. A mountain of research explores how harmful both are. I am not saying you can never eat another doughnut, piece of cake, or bowl of ice cream. However, it would be better to limit them to rare rather than daily occasions. Become a label reader when you buy packaged foods. My rule of thumb is if there are more than five ingredients, and they are giant words that I cannot pronounce nor have a clue as to what they are, I put the item back on the shelf. Hoebeke also said, “Eating too much when you aren’t COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
hungry or making yourself skip meals can have metabolic consequences that can upset your physical and mental health.” Our busy lives make it difficult not to eat on the run. However, I Becky Comet AAC Member have found that eating meals at Benefits Manager regular, fairly consistent times has made a difference in my ability to maintain a healthy weight. Next in the facets of physical wellness is physical activity. This does not mean you have to body build like Arnold Schwarzenegger or run a marathon. Physical activity does not have to be a painful endeavor endured for the sake of good health. People ask me all the time what is the best exercise? My answer is always the same — the one you will do. If you choose activities that you do not like, you will not do them consistently, if at all. If you like to walk, walk. If you like to swim, swim. If you like to play pickleball, by all means play pickleball. Consistency is the key. Find something you like and do it consistently at least 150 minutes per week. Fitness experts suggest you choose activities that will build muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and balance. Also, do not be too hard on yourself if you are just starting out. Start where you are and work on improving a little bit every time. For example, if you want to walk for your exercise but all you can do right now is make it to the end of your driveway, then that is your starting point. Walk to the end of the driveway for two or three days. Then add the additional steps to get to the mailbox. All you can do is all you can do. Celebrate the little victories in the journey. I know county folks have to sit and look at a computer screen for the majority of the day. All that sitting is not good for us, but what are we to do? I have a couple of suggestions. First, devise a plan that will allow you to stand up or do a few things at your desk for about two or so minutes every hour. I know that every situation is different and that may not work for everyone. If the only activity you can get is during a break time or at lunch time, then use your time wisely. Take the long way to the restroom, including stairs if you can. Walk, stretch, and move in some way whenever possible. If you need to set an alarm on your phone or fitness device to remind you to move every hour, then do so. Whatever it takes. I found a great article that has some terrific ideas for exercises you can do right at or near your desk. It is See
Task Force proposals turn into bills for consideration Legislation benefiting, improving law enforcement in Arkansas part of ‘Back the Blue’ Movement. Story By Dorothy Spector, AAC Law Clerk Photos By BRENT WALKER
n June 8, 2020, the bill entitled “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020” was introduced to the U.S. Congress. The bill seeks to change the procedure and regulations on immunity for law enforcement nationwide. Sections 101 and 102 of the bill would change the willful standard to a recklessness standard, which would explicitly qualify any act by a police officer that is a substantial factor contributing to the death of an individual to equate a death resulting act. Furthermore, Section 102 would amend Section 1979 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (42 U.S.C. 1983) to no longer allow immunity or a defense for local law enforcement that acted in good faith or without knowledge that their conduct was unlawful. Consequently, it would be easier for individuals to sue police officers and other members of law enforcement. It will also work to end racial and religious profiling and ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. This bill passed
the House of Representatives on June 25, 2020, and was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 490. At the state level, locations such as New York, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Utah, Delaware, and Washington, D.C., have prohibited the use of chokeholds, with some identifying the technique as a method of aggravated strangulation. Individual cities and counties also have taken the initiative to ban the use of chokeholds. Houston and Austin, Texas, announced executive orders banning chokeholds; Dallas announced a formal ban on chokeholds and any force intended to restrict a person’s airways; Broward County, Florida, will prohibit chokeholds to restrain or secure persons except when deadly force is justified; Miami is prohibiting lateral vascular neck restraints (LVNR), chokeholds and any other restraint that restricts free movement of the neck or head or the ability to breath; Chicago will ban “caSee
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Department of Public Safety Secretary Jami Cook (middle), whom the Governor appointed to help oversee the Task Force, attends a Back the Blue event on the State Capitol steps. Proposed legislation regarding law enforcement was announced at the event.
rotid artery restraint” chokeholds and “any other maneuvers for applying direct pressure on a windpipe or airway would be classified as a deadly force technique”; Denver will be banning chokeholds with no exceptions; Minneapolis announced an order to prohibit all neck restrains and chokeholds, requiring officers to physically intervene against unauthorized use of force, and requiring officers to notify a supervisor if they see inappropriate use of force; and Seattle voted unanimously to ban chokeholds and crowd control methods. Even the government of France has announced that police will be prohibited from using chokeholds during arrests.
The Task Force
In Arkansas, chokeholds are outlawed as not being “objectively reasonable.” Therefore, chokeholds are not taught in Arkansas, nor are they advocated or supported. If a chokehold were to be used in a situation wherein it is not warranted, the officer would be subject to investigation. Even so, understanding the widespread unease within the community due to the events throughout the country in the past year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson created the Law Enforcement Task Force with the purpose to ensure best practices for law enforcement and to guide the advancement of Arkansas’ law enforcement. The Governor appointed Department of Public Safety Secretary Jami Cook and Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy Deputy Director Fred Weatherspoon to lead the efforts of the Task Force, members of which he also appointed. They range from law enforcement leaders to community activists, and they serve as an advisory body of the Governor to propose recommendations on how to advance the state of law 24
enforcement in Arkansas. The Task Force is divided into four subcommittees, each with a chairman appointed by the Governor. Each subcommittee has seven to eight members. According to a news release on the Governor’s website (http:// bit.ly/2OFy7jM), each member of the Task Force has the responsibility to “review the adequacy of law enforcement training, policy, and operations, specifically as they relate to cultural, racial, and community relations, ... study and analyze the processes of accountability of standards, obstacles for recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers, etc.” When he created this Task Force by Executive Order 20-30 (https://bit.ly/38sfWVR), the Governor told the media, “It’s going to be dynamic. It’s going to be listening to the community. It’s going to be addressing the serious issues that we’ve seen reflected across the country.” Task force members were allowed to be part of more than one subcommittee and were able to listen to the other meetings even if they were not a member of the subcommittee. The individual subcommittees met virtually at least once a month from June 18, 2020, to Nov. 13, 2020. After intensive, honest, and collaborative dialogue in these subcommittees, the Task Force subcommittees made recommendations to the Governor regarding enhancing trust between law enforcement and communities, and improvements or changes that need to be made to ensure compliance to standards of the profession. The findings of the Task Force have been formulated into 27 official recommendations, compiled in a final report submitted to the Governor on Dec. 31, 2020.
The Four Subcommittees
Subcommittee 1, chaired by Conway Citizen Advocate Jimmy Warren, was formed to review the adequacy of law enforcement training, policy, and operations, specifically related to cultural, racial, and community relations. Subcommittee 2, chaired by Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd, was to study and analyze the processes for accountability, discipline, removal, and decertification of officers who do not meet standards, including an evaluation for the creation and implementation of a statewide, public database of complaints and resolutions concerning law enforcement officers. Subcommittee 3, chaired by Van Buren Citizen Advocate Layla Holloway, was tasked to study and analyze the effectiveness and sustainability of community policing efforts, including the impact of law enforcement officers living in the communities in which they are policing. Subcommittee 4, chaired by Little Rock Police Sgt. Allen Hamby, was formed to study and analyze the standards, requirements, and obstacles for recruitment, hiring, and reCOUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
AAC tention of law enforcement officers, including resiliency programs, educational opportunities, and compensation and benefit packages available to law enforcement officers.
Subcommittee 1 evaluated current law enforcement training programs in Arkansas in order to make recommendations for improvement. Programs under evaluation included, but were not limited to, the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA), Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute (CJI), and Field Training Officer (FTO) Programs. While these programs already provide mandatory racial bias training through required courses on de-escalation and cultural, racial, and community relations, one of the main areas of discussion centered on further improving cultural competency. As such, the subcommittee identified that increasing the minimum training standards for FTO programs and guidelines established by the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (CLEST) will allow law enforcement officers to be better prepared to navigate cultural and racial issues with improved skills of cultural competency. Likewise, the Task Force is committed to improving race and community relations and has recommended various methods
of reinforcing the correct legal behavior of both law enforcement and citizens. Recommendations to this aim include developing a multi-lingual “know your rights” campaign and applying for funding of body cameras for all front-line duty officers. Another key area of focus was the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which trains officers to identify behavior indicative of a mental health crisis, how to de-escalate violent situations, and how to divert those who are mentally ill to mental health care systems instead of to jail. This training involves three elements: mental illness awareness and recognition, de-escalation, and the utilization of resources. Arkansas is the only state in the country to establish a crisis intervention partnership with law enforcement agencies, state government, and counties, and due to its success, the Task Force encourages the expansion of Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs). Official recommendations made by Subcommittee 1: • To include the following into the minimum standards for all FTO programs: • Communication skills (making sure officers are effectively communicating internally and externally) • Implicit bias (how to identify blind spots and uncover See
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what the officer is not seeing) Ethics (going above the law to protect the highest standard in duty) Duty to intervene (holding every officer to the highest standard in duty) Cultural competency (consisting of cultural decorum, customs, religious practices, and slang) De-Escalation (how to bring a situation under control) Crisis Intervention Training (reducing the risk of injury to mentally ill persons and law enforcement) Maintain and expand awareness and use of the established Arkansas CSUs to allow for better public access, both in and outside of law enforcement and/or community mental health providers For CLEST, increase the mandatory annual racial bias training component of continuing education from two hours to four hours. Law enforcement agencies within Arkansas should seek out and apply for federal, state, and local funding to aid in the implementation of state-of-the-art body cameras, as well as adequate server storage to aid in better surveillance for all agencies. Specifically, the subcommittee advocated for funding legislation that helps ensure all front-line duty officers will be wearing state of the art body cameras by 2026. Create a strong multi-lingual “Know Your Rights and What to Do When You’re Pulled Over” campaign that is coordinated at the state and local levels to increase community trust, knowledge, and awareness. County and local law enforcement agencies should work with community organizational leaders and academic institutions to study and analyze any potential negative impacts of a 287(g) program, including any unintended consequences associated with rebuilding community trust among minority populations.
These recommendations took form in the 2021 Legislative Session as Senate Bills 292 and 346, filed by Sen. Jason Rapert. SB292 represents Establishing the Public Safety Equipment Grant Program administered by the Department of Public Safety. If passed, this bill will allow Secretary Cook to grant money to local law enforcement specifically for the purpose of providing non-lethal equipment and to support detention centers and correction through the process of accreditation. This bill aims to improve communication and transparency with Arkansas citizens. SB346 represents Retention of Audio/Visual Media by Law Enforcement Agencies and addresses the use of audiovisual media by law enforcement and the how long this media must be 26
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retained. This bill also will improve body camera retention and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Subcommittee 2 placed its emphasis on accountability in relation to community policing and interactions, in addition to the review of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities.” Two key ideas discussed in these meetings were 1) developing a database with public access to complaints relating to law enforcement officers and their resolutions, and 2) how to speed up the de-certification process. The hope for this component is to remove the “bad officers’’ through de-certification at a faster rate than the system currently facilitates. To that effect, as stated by Chairman Boyd, “No one wants a bad policeman off the street more than the good policemen.” As such, this subcommittee made six recommendations to the Governor stemming from clarifying policy verbiage and enforcing strict standards on the transparency of discipline and decertification. For instance, the Task Force proposed new categories to specify in the reporting requirements if an officer was Craighead County Sheriff and separated for excessive use of AAC Board Member Marty force, or if separated for dis- Boyd was chairman of the Task Force’s Subcomittee 2. honesty and untruthfulness. These recommendations — Photo by Holland Doran will build upon and help improve the various existing programs for law enforcement and community interactions organized and run by Arkansas sheriffs. Devoted to serving the state of Arkansas and its citizens, the sheriffs organize and participate in community outreach programs to aid access, communication, and understanding between Arkansas citizens and law enforcement. Community engagement events include hosting educational forums on workplace violence and neighborhood crime watch, “Shop with a Cop,” “Roadside Trash Pick-up,” “Polar Bear Plunge,” and “Cereal Drive and Badges for Backpacks Food Drive.” In addition, sheriffs participate in food delivery and Pantry Box programs. With these programs, Arkansas sheriffs See
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Many county sheriffs, city police officers, and state law enforcement attended the Back the Blue event on March 2 to show their support for a legislative package that included, among other things, measures to change from 30 to 25 years the length of service for a law enforcement officer to retire and to provide a state tax credit to law enforcement officers.
collect food and deliver food packages to community individuals in need. Through the Pantry Box Program, sheriff’s departments build, fill, and maintain pantry boxes for the community. Sheriffs are involved in many other community programs such as Church Security Training, School Safety Programs, Special Olympics, Cyber Crime Education, Women’s Self Defense Training, Coat Drives for Kids, PACT Program, Make-a-Wish, Trunk or Treats, Cook for Communities, and more. Youth engagement is another passion area for law enforcement. Members of law enforcement routinely visit elementary schools to read to students, to host Christmas Parades and Parties, and to participate in “Career Day” to teach children how to become a Law Enforcement Officer. As these students become older, they see the same sheriffs actively engaged at schools in discussing drug programs, cyber bullying, and active shooter scenarios. They also join students for lunch. The school Drug Program is currently in 11 school districts and reaches 2,700 students. This is in addition to the Red Ribbon Grant. More than $22,000 has been awarded to 16 different counties through this program. Official recommendations made by Subcommittee 2: • CLEST should meet a minimum of six times per year instead of the current four times per year to speed up the decertification process. • CLEST should publish on its website adjudicated decertification records into a public database similar to the process recently established in the state of Oregon to increase transparency. • Legislation should be proposed to restrict the number of part-time law enforcement officers allowed within a 28
law enforcement agency that resemble the requirements for auxiliary law enforcement officers under Ark. Code § 12-9-306. • Amend Ark. Code § 12-9-118 to require new or inactive agencies to employ a full-time chief of police to provide clarity and establish administrative structure and organization. • Amend Ark. Code § 12-9-602 to separate untruthfulness and excessive force into independent elements. • Law enforcement agencies should participate in the National Use of Force Data Collection effort to resemble the recommendation recently published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police because participation “will help law enforcement, elected officials, and community members better identify and understand the totality of incidents and trends associated with useof-force incidents, and other outlying factors.” These recommendations from Subcommittee 2 took form as House Bills 1007 and 1197. HB 1007 is The Law Enforcement Integrity Act of 2021 filed by Rep. Fred Love. This bill is intended to address concerns of abuse of power and civil rights by creating the Law Enforcement Integrity Unit within the Division of Arkansas State Police. This unit will be designed to investigate allegations of civil rights violations and abuses of police power. The unit will be staffed with both law enforcement officers and civilians to report criminal offenses. Furthermore, the bill will establish a 24-hour hotline for citizens to report such abuses and establish a searchable, statewide COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
AAC database containing the names of the officers who have been accused of violations or abuse and the allegation itself. Recommendations from Subcommittee 2 are also represented in HB1197 filed by Rep. Carol Dalby and Sen. Dave Wallace. The bill proposes to amend two codes in Title 12. It would restrict the number of part-time law enforcement officers to two for each full-time officer. It also would amend Ark. Code § 12-9-602(b) on the notice to the Law Enforcement Commission on Standards and Training for any notice of employment, appointment, or separation from employment of an officer to add if applicable: (1) the law enforcement officer retired while the subject of a pending internal investigation; (2) the law enforcement officer was separated due to excessive use of force, and (3) the law enforcement officer was separated for dishonesty or untruthfulness.
Subcommittee 3 of the Task Force has expanded upon these community outreach needs by analyzing community policing efforts, including the impact of law enforcement officers living in the communities they serve. Chaired by Student Activist Layla Holloway, the subcommittee consisted of 10 official members, who met approximately six times. With the help of Dr. Heather Yates from the University of Central Arkansas and Dr. Jennifer Adams at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Holloway created a 19-question survey designed to measure community views of policing efforts, from which to base the committee’s analysis and recommendations to help mend the identified gaps. This survey was distributed statewide by the Arkansas Municipal League to mayors who then distributed the survey to their constituents and law enforcement agencies, in addition to posting it on social media platforms. There also was a Spanish version of the survey in order to include Hispanic communities. From these survey results, the subcommittee discovered ongoing collaboration and engagement with minority communities may help reestablish trust between law enforcement and Arkansans. Combining this process of dynamic discourse with data analysis of citizen and law enforcement opinions, the guesswork of the citizen’s standpoint on law enforcement and community relationships was removed. As such, the two main recommendations made were centered on 1) including a certain number of hours to be part of the voluntary community engagement programs; and 2) requiring there to be intentional and specific efforts to mend the gap between minority communities, recognizing that not every community is the same in these needs. Holloway said by using the survey data to aid in formulating recommendations, “it was pretty eye opening for everyone. We did a lot of great things, and I think we did go forward. I believe, for the country, we set a tone and made a model for how other states can go about their Task Force if they choose to do so.” Official recommendations made by Subcommittee 3: COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
• Law enforcement recruits should be required during training to accumulate a certain number of hours within local communities, to observe and interact with community members. CLEST will credit officers with training hours for their participation in community engagement events. • Law enforcement agencies should develop intentional efforts with minority community organizations (community leaders, non-profit programs, faith-based programs, business, etc.) to assess the needs of minority communities and to rebuild trust that will increase public safety for all Arkansans.
Subcommittee 4 focused on the concerns of recruitment statewide and the obstacles for recruitment, hiring, and retention of law enforcement officers, which have been long-standing issues across the country. This subcommittee also used a survey to gauge the opinions of Arkansas law enforcement administrators on the obstacles in their profession from a structural standpoint. Results gathered from 74 survey responses showed the biggest hurdle in recruitment of officers to be: 1) low salary, at 89.2 percent and 2) lack of qualified applicants, at 81.1 percent. The biggest hurdle in retention of officers was found to be low salary, at 95.9 percent. In addition to the data collected, the subcommittee conducted in-depth assessments of Arkansas law enforcement, CLEST, State of Arkansas Law Enforcement: Health Insurance Coverage, Law Enforcement Resiliency Programs, Law Enforcement Educational Opportunities, and Arkansas Law Enforcement Retirement Systems in order to make recommendations. Official recommendations made by Subcommittee 4: • That state, local, and county governing bodies reappropriate funding to ensure that entry-level salaries for law enforcement officers are equivalent to or above the average annual wage in Arkansas. • That incremental salary increases for law enforcement officers be equivalent in their years of service, rank, and responsibilities. • The proposal of legislation to exempt a portion of an active, full-time law enforcement officer’s salary from state income taxes. • That CLEST work with subject matter experts to ensure that CLEST Rule 1002 provides the following assessments: comprehensive psychological assessments regarding aggression, implicit and racial bias pre-screening; physical fitness assessments; extensive character, employment, and criminal background investigations; and current bias assessments to better evaluate that law enforcement candidates are physically, emotionally, and mentally fit to serve. See
Blue • That CLEST conduct a study on the necessity for officers to be periodically re-evaluated throughout their service at years three, seven, and 10. • That state, local, and county governing bodies reappropriate funding to provide healthcare coverage for full-time law enforcement officers and their dependents who participate in an annual wellness assessment. Annual wellness assessments should not be required for dependents who are minors. • The Arkansas Department of Public Safety, in conjunction with existing programs, should develop and administer a robust, statewide wellness and resiliency program available to the law enforcement community, including officers, jailers, dispatchers, coroners, and civilian staff. • The proposal of legislation and funding to support a loan forgiveness program for law enforcement officers similar to a program recently enacted in Texas. The alternative to this recommendation is that the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program be amended to allow for forgiveness eligibility following 12 months instead of 120 months of qualifying payments for law enforcement officers. • The proposal of legislation and funding to allow for a full-time, certified law enforcement officer to attend a state-supported institution of higher education tuition free, similar to the legislation for soldiers or airmen in the Arkansas National Guard. • The proposal of legislation that the first 50 percent of benefits received by a law enforcement officer of this state from an individual retirement account or the first 50 percent of retirement benefits received by a law enforcement officer of this state from public or private employment-related retirement systems, plans, or programs, regardless of the method of funding for these systems, plans, or programs, be exempt from the state income tax, with no age requirement. • That actuary studies be conducted on all applicable retirement systems to determine the cost and feasibility to reduce actual service for retirement of law enforcement officers to no more than 25 years with at least a 3 percent multiplier. Specifically, actuarial studies should include separating law enforcement officers from civilian employees in the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS). • That actuarial studies be conducted on all applicable retirement systems to determine the cost and feasibility of allowing law enforcement officers who medically retire due to work-related injuries to receive equivalent retirement benefits as if the law enforcement officer reached 30
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full retirement eligibility. • That law enforcement agencies provide long-term disability insurance for all law enforcement officers. Some of these recommendations entered the 2021 Legislative Session as Senate Bills 234 and 304, filed by Sen. Rapert, and HB 1274, filed by Rep. Stu Smith. SB234 represents Retirement Enhancement for State Police. Currently, law enforcement officers are allowed to retire after 30 years of service. This bill seeks to reduce the number of years to 25, which would call for a 3 percent contribution from a member’s salary. Ultimately, the bill was amended to reduce the number of years of service from 30 to 28, rather than the orginally proposed 25 years of service, for State Police. Of that change, Rapert said, “I had hoped to have our state join every single state that surrounds us by lowering to 25 years the years of service required for any law enforcement officer to retire. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and state leaders going forward to make this goal become a reality. I am extremely happy that we found consensus to allow the Arkansas State Police retire with 28 years of service, which puts them in parity with other law enforcement officers in our state.” SB304 represents the Income Tax Credit for Full-Time Law Enforcement Officers, which would create a tax exemption or tax credit for law enforcement officers. The aim of this bill is to counteract poor starting salaries and to provide a tax credit incentive for all state, local, and federal officers. HB 1274 would amend the current definition of employees under APERS to add “those persons participating in a local policemen’s pension and relief fund.” It also would amend Ark. Code § 24-4-524 to allow volunteer officers to receive reciprocal service credit from APERS earned, by the volunteer officer either under the Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System or a local pensions and relief fund.
Back the Blue Movement
Many of the bills previously discussed and inspired by the Task Force recommendations have become part of what is being called the “Back the Blue” Movement, spearheaded by Sen. Rapert. “Every single day in our state brave law enforcement officers serving our communities put on their badges and holster their sidearms to enforce the laws of our state and protect the public from criminals that may seek to harm them,” Rapert said. “I am proud to have been a part of the legislative leadership that formed the Back the Blue Caucus to support legislation that supports these courageous men and women who take an oath to protect and serve the people of our state. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
AAC I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to effectively do their job.” Rapert said the Back the Blue Movement is significant for many reasons. “I have had several family members and close friends who have served and Former U.S. District Attorney Cody continue to serve in Hiland is a proponent of a bill intended law enforcement,” to limit the scope of parole. he said. “The public often takes the daily sacrifice that these officers and their families make for granted. With all the unnecessary and negative actions taken in some parts of our country to ‘defund the police,’ I am proud of our Arkansas legislature, our governor and the vast majority of Arkansas citizens raising our voices to ensure that all our law enforcement officers know we appreciate them and ‘Back the Blue.’ The bills that our caucus has put forward show that we mean what we say.” SB300, To Prohibit Parole for a Person Convicted of the Offense of Possession of a Firearm by Certain Persons Another, is another important bill that is part of this. Sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang and backed by former U.S. District Attorney Cody Hiland, the bill is intended to limit the scope of parole and prohibit parole in situations of repeat felony offenders for felony possession of a firearm. Arkansas currently suffers from a high rate of violent crimes, many of which Hiland has found to involve repeat felony possession offenders. When asked to expand upon his position on this bill Hiland stated: “As United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, I was proud to work with our local and state law enforce-
ment partners to use our federal statutes to remove violent, repeat criminals from our communities,” Hiland said. “Violent, repeat offenders must be confronted and held accountable. The truth is, no free nation ever willed itself from poverty to prosperity by being soft on crime and failing to uphold the rule of law. The ultimate success of education, infrastructure, and economic development is absolutely linked to successful enforcement of the rule of law. As we have seen in far too many cities in this nation, if allowed to continue unchecked, crime is an oppression that smothers civilization and the resulting quality of life for our people. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the tangible financial costs and the intangible, but very real, costs to freedom that crime has on individuals and businesses in our community.” Hiland continued: “It’s why I’m working with the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association to significantly strengthen existing penalties by eliminating parole for violent, repeat felons who are caught carrying weapons. If the legislation is successful, it will give local and state law enforcement and prosecutors a critical tool similar to that used at the federal level to keep our communities safe by removing those who would do us harm from the streets.”
Members of Arkansas’ law enforcement community have expressed support for this Task Force throughout its fruition and are confident it has provided beneficial insight on how to improve the profession. Arkansas Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Scott Bradley, who formerly served as Van Buren County sheriff, believes one of the key benefits of the Task Force is that it granted “a good opportunity to take a hard look at ourselves and how we can improve.” He said he and other members of law enforcement value establishing and maintaining the trust of the community. Furthermore, Task Force members agree that while the topics of discussion during their meetings had the potential to be divisive, dialogue remained respectful and fruitful because each member was committed to the ultimate goal of making Arkansas better. As such, the Task Force was indeed as dynamic and instrumental as the Governor intended, as many of the recommendations made have become action items for the 93rd General Assembly and sparked the Back the Blue Movement. As such, Arkansas is at the forefront of progress.
www.arcounties.org COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
Sharp County completes new detention center
he new year brought a new detention center to Sharp County. The brand new facility, which was revealed to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 8, is outfitted with 100 new beds, updated
security systems, a nurse’s station, commercial kitchen, sprinkler system, sheriff’s offices and more. The former jail was built in the early 1980s, was over capacity, and was not able to meet jail standards. To solve the problem, Sharp County needed a facility that was up to code, but they needed to pass a sales tax to fund the $8.4 million jail. At the ballot box, residents passed a half-cent sales tax for construction and a quarter-cent tax for facility
maintenance. “The jail was desperately needed as decisions were being made as to who to keep in the jail and who to release,” County Judge Gene Moore said. “Warrants were not able to be served as the jail was out of space to house them.” Updated security technology including a central control center and new vision system, were the most needed features, Moore said. “We have what is called a bird’s nest where there will be jailers watching all the inmates 24 hours a day by sight and cameras,” he said. “Access will be limited; the inmate will be able to have virtual visitation without ever leaving their cells.” Sheriff Mark Counts is relieved that the new jail is now secure and safe for the inmates and his staff, and he credits a dedicated group of people, and citizens for their vote. “It wasn’t just one person working hard to get this accomplished,” he said. “They’ve [put] a lot of time and effort into this and so I appreciate it. The citizens of Sharp County [have] something to be proud about.” Judge Moore seconds Sheriff Counts. “First and foremost, I thank the people of Sharp County who have supported this new project from the beginning,” he said. “The Quorum Court, Sheriff Mark Counts and his Chief Deputy Aaron Presser have put countless hours in the new detention center.”
Top: A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Jan. 8 for the new Sharp County Detention Center, which has 100 beds, updated security systems, and more. Sharp County residents approved two taxes to make the construction and maintenance of the building possible. Above left: Sharp County Judge Gene Moore addresses those attending the ceremony. Above middle: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was a special guest. Above right: Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts credited many people for making the new jail possible. 32
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WELLNESS & SAFETY
Body called “25 Office Exercises: Easy Desk-Friendly Ways to Get Fit in 2021.” Here is the link to the article: https:// snacknation.com/blog/office-exercises/. There are great explanations, pictures, and even short videos on how to do each exercise. In these days of COVID-19, we have heard much about the merits of good hygiene. When we talk about hygiene we usually think about cleanliness. We think about hand washing, for example. But Hoebeke notes, “Hygiene is defined as any action taken to maintain health and prevent disease. Hygiene also includes seeking out preventative medical care such as getting physical exams, going to the dentist and seeing an eye doctor if you have vision issues.” In these pandemic days, taking care of regular preventative health screenings has been difficult and scary at best. However, my doctor recently told me the medical community expects the incidence of various kinds of cancer to greatly increase this year because people have avoided getting much-needed physicals, mammograms, female/male exams and screenings, colonoscopies, etc.
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Please do not skip your wellness exams. The doctors have found many ways to get them done in COVID safe ways. We complete this examination of physical wellness with relaxation. Most of us know how important down time is, but we usually put it at the bottom of our to-do list. However, relaxation is not just an important mental exercise to unwind our mind at the end of a tough day. Hoebeke says, “Tension can build up in muscles causing headaches or back pain and stress hormones can cause a variety of nasty symptoms including adrenal fatigue.” In these hectic, get it all done and get it done now days we must take the time to unplug and rejuvenate ourselves. Scheduling time to simply relax and enjoy yourself is important to your overall health. Whether it is getting a massage, staying home and reading a good book, or playing your favorite sport, some “me time” does everyone good. It takes time and effort to consistently work on your physical wellbeing. But I can tell you from experience that when you are faced with a health crisis, you will be in better shape to face it head on. Take good care of your body, and your body will take good care of you.
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MENTAL HEALTH & ADDICTION SERVICES IN ARKANSAS All Arkansans have access to mental health & addiction services. • Individual & Group Counseling • Family Counseling • Substance Abuse & Addiction Counseling & Treatment • Parent & Child Counseling for Children Under 4 • Medication Management • Help During a Mental Health Crisis If you have Medicaid, or are without insurance coverage and can’t pay for treatment on your own, you can get counseling and treatment services paid for by the state.
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At your first appointment, you will meet your provider who will talk with you and decide what services you may need. Bring a list of your doctors and the medications you are taking.
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Visit humanservices.arkansas.gov/about-dhs/daabhs/mentalhealth for more information.
COUNTY CLERKS The Arkansas Association of County Clerks gathered Feb. 23-25, in Little Rock/Pulaski County.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge speaks to clerks.
Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston speaks to clerks.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s Director of Elections Leslie Bellamy (far right) introduces her staff at the clerks’ conference.
Arkansas Association of County Clerks President and Little River County Clerk Deanna Sivley welcomes clerks to the conference.
Above left: County clerks and deputy clerks talk during a break. Above center: Administrative Office of the Courts Staff Attorney Brooke Steen speaks. Above right: AAC Executive Director Chris Villines talks to clerks about retirement. 36
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The County Judges Association of Arkansas met Feb 9-11, in Benton/Saline County.
Arkansas State Senate Pro Tempore, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, Jr., was the guest speaker at the judges’ meeting.
Logan County Judge Ray Gack, Franklin County Judge Rickey Bowman, Pope County Judge Ben Cross and Sebastian County Judge David Hudson talk during a break. Far left: Pulaski County Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) Program Director Dr. Lisa Evans gives an update on the unit. Left, center: CJAA 1st Vice-President and Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin introduces a guest speaker. Left: CJAA President and Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison welcomes judges to the conference.
Right: Arkansas Dept. of Corrections Secretary of Corrections Solomon Graves gives an update on community corrections. Far right: JCD Consulting President Chase Dugger and JCD Client Services Director Susanna Watt speak.
Far left: AAC Litigation Counsel Colin Jorgensen gives an update on the opioid litigation. Left, center: AAC Governmental Affairs Director Josh Curtis talks about legislation of interest to judges. Left: Justice Reinvestment Coordinator for the Office of the Governor Kathryn Griffin talks about the future of the CSUs. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
The Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association gathered Feb. 1-4, in Little Rock/Pulaski County.
Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association President and Washington County Circuit Clerk Kyle Sylvester welcomes circuit clerks to the conference.
Circuit clerks from across the state gather at the Hilton Garden Inn in Little Rock/Pulaski County for two days of continuing education. Far left: AAC Executive Director Chris Villines, AAC Board of Directors President and Randolph County Circuit Clerk Debbie Wise, Cleveland County Clerk/Circuit Clerk Jimmy Cummings and Association President Kyle Syvlester chat. Left: CEO of National Child Protection Task Force Kevin Metcalf stresses the importance of cyber safety for children and teens.
Saline County Circuit Clerk and Association 1st Vice-President Myka Bono Sample, Association 2nd Vice-President and Crawford County Circuit Clerk Sharon Blount-Baker, Saline County Circuit Clerks’ Office Manager Megan Curtis and Benton County Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields lead a discussion. 38
AAC Legal Counsel Lindsey Bailey French, Pulaski County Deputy Circuit Clerk Cherie Abston, Pulaski County Clerk/Circuit Clerk Terri Hollingsworth and Washington County Circuit Clerk Kyle Syvlester talk during a break. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
COUNTY SHERIFFS The Arkansas Sheriffs Association gathered Jan. 24-27, in Little Rock/Pulaski County.
Arkansas Sheriffs Association (ASA) Executive Director Scott Bradley welcomes sheriffs to the meeting.
ASA 1st Vice-President and Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd, ASA 2nd Vice-President and Saline County Sheriff Rodney Wright and ASA Secretary/Treasurer and Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones welcome Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the luncheon. Far left: ASA President and Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton raffles off an engraved knife. Left: The ASA Honor Guard kicks off the luncheon with posting of the colors.
Above left: Arkansas Jail Administrators Association President Richard Mitcham (standing) addresses jail administrators and employees. Above, center: Lt. Kevin F. Dillon walks through use of force concepts. Above, top: Cody Hiland, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, speaks. Right, bottom: Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin says a few words during the training. COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021
COUNTY COLLECTORS The Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association gathered Dec. 2-4, 2020, in Hot Springs/Garland County.
Pope County Deputy Collectors Stacy Pack and Debra Williams pose for a photo during the Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association continuing education conference at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.
Craighead County Collector Wes Eddington speaks during a panel discussion. He is joined by Pope County Collector Jennifer Haley and Association President and Crittenden County Collector Ellen Foote.
Above, left: Garland County Chief Deputy Collector Jennifer Kenner and Deputy Collector Karen Wilson smile for a photo before the meeting begins. Above, right: Drew County Executive Deputy Tax Collector Maxine Fuqua and County Tax Collector Tonya Loveless show off their matching shirts and masks.
Above, left: Association President Ellen Foote welcomes collectors to the conference. Above, right: White County Collector Beth Dorton makes a comment. Right: Pope County Chief Deputy Collector Sharon Clark and Pope County Collector Jennifer Haley pose for a picture. 40
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About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S. NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 counties. NACo advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.
U.S. Census Bureau: Release of redistricting data to be delayed
By Eryn Hurley NACo, Associate Legislative Director
n Feb. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it will publicly release redistricting data, which is used to redraw voting districts around the country, from the 2020 Census on September 30, 2021 — two months later than the original date of July 2021. With the recent announcement, local governments will be faced with a shorter timeline to finish drawing new maps in time for the 2022 elections. However, the Bureau did release 2020 Census redistricting data geographic support products, which helps assist state and local governments in their redistricting efforts. The 2020 Census has already faced considerable delays and challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Census self-response period was originally scheduled to run from March 12, 2020 to July 31, 2020. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic just six days into this period, the Census Bureau suspended all field operations. As states began to reopen, the Census Bureau initiated a phased restart of field operations, including hiring non-response field staff and resuming other census operations
on May 4, 2020. In early June, field operations had largely resumed and were working to meet the October deadline. With nearly a trillion dollars in federal funding apportioned each year based on Census results, an accurate, complete count is crucial to county governments and their residents. Funding for health care, economic development, infrastructure, education and other critical county responsibilities are all informed by Census results. With the new delay, local governments will be caught in a tight deadline as we try to complete redistricting maps by the start of the 2022 election cycle. Counties support a fair and accurate census count, which informs federal funding for the essential services that their residents rely on. Redistricting will impact numerous counties and their local elected officials as this may change the communities they represent. They play a vital role in Census operations from start to finish and rely on the results of a full and accurate count to best serve their communities. NACo continues to monitor Census updates and will keep members apprised of any new developments.
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