Legislative Session Recap
Congressional redistricting, COVID -19 were dominant topics. Page 22
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In This Issue COVER STORY Last Days of the Special Legislative Session..............................22
AAC Photo Recap: County Judges...............................................36
Departments From the Director’s Desk...................................................................7
COVID-19 Better Prepares Counties for Next Emergency ........26
From the Governor............................................................................11
AAC Staff Profile: Caitlin Brown.....................................................28
AAC Photo Recap: County Assessors...........................................30
Seems to Me..................................................................................... 14
AAC Photo Recap: County Treasurers........................................31
AAC Photo Recap: County Circuit Clerks.......................................32
Risk Management Services............................................................18
AAC Photo Recap: Judges Road Seminar....................................33
AAC Photo Recap: Guardian Users Meeting.............................34
Wellness & Safety............................................................................21
AAC Photo Recap: County Clerks...............................................35
News from NACo...............................................................................38
Cover Notes: F a ll Colors
( P hoto by M i chael Dean Shelton/ i Stock )
Above left: The Arkansas House of Representatives is pictured here. The General Assembly re-convened Sept. 29, 2021, to consider proposals to draw new Congressional boundaries following the release of the 2020 Census numbers. Above right: Ultimately, both chambers of the state Legislature adopted maps contained in House Bill 1982 sponsored by Rep. Nelda Speaks (middle) and Senate Bill 743 sponsored by Sen. Jane English. The bills mirrored one another. The General Assembly adjourned its regular 2021 session on Oct. 15, 2021. Read more about the session on Page 22. — Photos provided by the Arkansas House of Representatives
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AAC Mission Statement
Jan. 14-16 & Jan. 22-23 Coroners Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock
Jan. 30-Feb. 2 Judges DoubleTree, Little Rock
Jan. 23-26 Sheriffs Marriott, Little Rock
Feb. 14-16 County Clerks Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock
Jan. 28 Coroners Fairfield Inn and Suites, Benton
Feb. 16-18 Treasurers Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock
Calendar activities also are posted on our website:
Contact AAC Chris Villines, Executive Director email@example.com Anne Baker, Executive Assistant firstname.lastname@example.org Whitney Ives, Receptionist email@example.com Eddie Jones, Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org Mark Whitmore, Chief Legal Counsel email@example.com Josh Curtis, Governmental Affairs Director firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Risk Management/ Workers’ Compensation Debbie Norman, Risk Mgmt. & Insurance Director email@example.com
Debbie Lakey, Workers’ Comp Claims Mgr. firstname.lastname@example.org Cathy Perry, Admin. Asst./Claims Analyst email@example.com
Ellen Wood, Admin. Asst./Receptionist firstname.lastname@example.org Brandy McAllister, RMS Counsel email@example.com Colin Jorgensen, RMF Litigation Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org JaNan Thomas, RMF Litigation Counsel email@example.com Melissa Dugger, RMF Litigation Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org
Caitlin Brown, Communications Coordinator email@example.com
Kim Nash, Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster firstname.lastname@example.org Camille Neemann, RMF Litigation Counsel email@example.com Renee Turner,Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster firstname.lastname@example.org Fonda Fitzgerald, RMF Paralegal email@example.com Riley Groover, Claims Analyst firstname.lastname@example.org Shantina Osborn, RMF Paralegal email@example.com
Karan Skarda, ACE Program Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Hunt, Claims Analyst Samantha Wren, RMF Paralegal email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Posey, Accountant email@example.com
Kim Mitchell, Administrative Assistant Becky Comet, Member Benefits Manager firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Lindsey French, Legal Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org Christy L. Smith, Communications Director email@example.com
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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 Randy Higgins 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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Madame President left a permanent mark on many
n the last month we lost a wonderful ambassador for the county governments of Arkansas. Judy Beth Hutcherson was so many things to so Chris Villines AAC many people. A friend, a mom, a wife, a grandmother. Executive Director And in her career as the Clark County Treasurer she was a trailblazer. She was a leader among her peers and so well respected that she was propelled into leadership on a state and national stage as well. I am proud to have called her my friend. As the President of the Arkansas Treasurers Association, Judy Beth was selected to sit on the Association of Arkansas Counties Board of Directors, where we first met. We on that board witnessed firsthand what it was that made her so special — her heart of gold. It was the heart of a gift-giver, a servant, a comedienne … a soul that instantly connected with your own. She had a way of disarming people with laughter (sometimes in an uncomfortable way). She then could connect with you one on one and become your friend. I’ve never met someone so gifted at doing this. By virtue of holding the office of president of our state board, Judy Beth was selected to represent Arkansas on the National Association of Counties Board of Directors — a very prestigious position in a national sphere. Being on this board required a few trips annually. Madame President Judy Beth, our vice president Debbie Wise and I found ourselves in an airport every few months on our way to press for Arkansas with this group. Judy Beth was not intimidated by such a group. No, she loved the challenge. At her first board meeting Judy Beth, proud of her Arkansas roots, wore a Razorback hog nose and immediately befriended the entire 150 plus members on the board. By the time she made it to her second meeting, the nation’s elite county officials all knew her and loved her. Travel with Judy Beth was always an adventure, and I think she loved that part of her work more than anything. She was someone that just couldn’t have too many friends. I’ll never forget being in line behind Judy Beth when we were getting on an airplane. As I boarded, the pilot was shaking his head and looking at this green sheet of paper instead of greeting the passengers. As I walked to my seat, I noticed each passenger with a similar sheet doing the same thing. It took me a second, then I realized Judy Beth had met and befriended everyone on that airplane on the way to her seat with her famous $1 million bills! The whole plane trip was made better because she had made everyone around her a bit happier. Judy Beth was never intimidated, either. I think we’ve all been in situations around people when the awe of the situation or certain people cause us to want to shrink back. I never, not one time, saw Judy Beth act any differently than normal. She was a rock, someone who led us to not be afraid, to be ourselves no matter what the world throws our way. Great people in our state and beyond loved Judy Beth because she was >>> 7
not intimidated. She had friendships with state legislators, constitutional officers, governors, and national leaders all predicated on her ability to talk with them like they were long-lost friends. I’ll never forget early in her tenure on our board she had the opportunity to introduce Gov. Mike Beebe to our association convention of around 600 people. As he came to the head table and sat next to her, conversation between them was more like a brother and a sister — it flowed naturally to the point I had to remind Judy Beth that she might need to introduce him to the crowd so he could speak and then get on with the state’s business. So she pulled that fan she wore around her neck up to her face, cooled off a bit, stood up and welcomed to the podium everyone’s favorite governor — “Magic Mike.” The crowd was stunned, then couldn’t quit laughing, but Gov. Beebe, who had I’m sure had never been introduced like this, got the biggest kick of all. I think if you met Judy Beth once, you never forgot her. She just had a bigger than life way of making you laugh or believing in yourself. I have so many stories, some I can share here — some I’d better not — but suffice it to say that being with Judy Beth around other people was a treat. You could see it coming. She was going to say something. Once you got used to her behavior all you could do is buckle in and enjoy the heck out of watching other people’s reactions. On one trip Judy Beth, Debbie Wise and I were going to the evening event … an indoor beach themed bash with around 2,000 county folks. Before the event, Judy Beth invited Debbie to come up to her room because she had something she wanted her to wear that night to the event. Thinking nothing of it, I knew I’d meet them at the event in a few hours. At around 6 p.m. we all were to meet up and I thought ● Pavement Maintenance Services I would never quit laughing when we did. You see, Judy Beth● Municipal Road Striping and Debbie were wearing matching bikini imprinted nightshirts. FRONT AND BACK! Let me remind you this ● Airport Pavement Maintenance was more of a laid-back soiree than a costume party. Again, ● Guardrail Maintenance watching other people’s reactions was priceless. Having frontrow ● Traﬃc Control Services seats to shock and awe icebreaker moments was something you just got used to when you were around Judy Beth. What an amazing lady. It wasn’t until after knowing Judy Beth that she told me, with a straight face, that she had flown airplanes and had a www.custompavement.com top-secret military clearance. She joked around so much I had a hard time believing it was true. But it was. What an inspiration she has been for so many of us, especially to her children and grandchildren. She was an incredible role model. She was the embodiment of a risk-taker. When she told me
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Judy Beth Hutcherson served as Clark County Treasurer, as AAC Board President, and as a member of the NACo Board. — Photo by Rebecca Fellers once she needed to get off the phone to head to the Clark County Lincoln Day Dinner, I was taken aback. I said, “Judy Beth, are you changing parties?” She replied no that this was something that she always liked to do. Let me tell you something, we get to see political dynamics across this state and country from the AAC offices. To have a democrat go the republican party annual event is not common … in fact it is unheard of. But this is who Judy Beth was. Never intimidated, instead excited about the prospect of seeing her constituents at any event. I was so proud to know her. Judy Beth left something behind with each of you reading this today. Our lives are enriched by having known her and by watching her. Whether it started with a $1 million bill, a tub of Juanita’s Peanut Brittle (which, by the way, she has now made famous in Washington, D.C., through her giftgiving), or a joke, Judy Beth worked her way into the hearts of every person reading this. The goal for Judy Beth was simple, to create a friend and have fun in the process, then through that friendship to encourage you to be the best you could be — a risk-taker even. God bless Judy Beth, she has earned the wings she has been given, and heaven is a much better place because she is there getting it ready for the rest of us. Rest in Peace and Love, my dear friend. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
A tribute to my ‘Arkansas sister’
’ve written often in this space about the comradery among the AAC Board members and how much I have learned about other county elected positions since I joined the Board in 2012. Perhaps no board member has had the influence on me that former Clark County Treasurer Judy Beth Hutcherson did. She was more than a colleague. She was a dear friend and mentor. On Nov. 7, 2021, we lost Judy Beth. I really got to know Judy Beth when she became president of the Board in 2015, and I became vice-president. We had so much in common beyond being county elected officials. We both were mothers and grandmothers. We had shared experiences and beliefs. We both grew up as military brats. Judy Beth even served in the military herself. She was one smart, sharp, and knowledgeable lady. But she also was a self-proclaimed “cut up.” There were few times she did not have me laughing until I was crying. As president and vice-president of the AAC Board of Directors, we were members of the National Association of Counties (NACo) Board of Directors. We traveled to many NACo meetings together, but our very first one stands out in my mind. I’m pretty outgoing, but there’s no way I could hold a candle to her. Judy Beth never met a stranger, and she knew how to break the ice. She wore a Razorback nose to our first NACo Board meeting — and she kept it on the whole time. We did not know anyone in that room, but it wasn’t long before we were meeting everybody. Judy Beth was like a mother figure to me. We would talk about everything in the world. And she seemed intent on pulling me out of my comfort zone. One time she made me wear a bikini t-shirt (you know the kind — an oversized t-shirt with an image of a bikini-clad body on the front and back) to a beach themed NACo reception. I was so embarrassed. She lived life to the fullest, riding motorcycles with her
husband Elven and tooling around Clark County in her little red Saturn Sky convertible. I’ll never forget my first ride in that convertible. The AAC Board of Directors and Legislative Committee had met at DeGray Lake Resort DEBBIE WISE to review and vote on the AAC AAC Board President; legislative package for an upcomRandolph County Circuit Clerk ing session. Judy Beth decided she needed to go to Walmart, and she told me to get in. The top was down, Judy Beth turned up the ‘70s tunes, and we took off down the Interstate singing and bopping around. She was waving at truckers; I thought for sure she would get pulled over. By the time we got to Walmart, Judy Beth’s hair was cattywampus and mine was in tangles. She didn’t care, though. Into Walmart we went. She drove me all around Arkadelphia, the seat of Clark County, because I had never been there before. Judy Beth had always been public service minded, but she knew how to have fun. One of the biggest lessons she taught me was to have more confidence in myself. She continually drove home the point that my life did not have to be all about getting things done and being so serious all the time. She taught me to enjoy life, to enjoy the moment. Even after she retired in 2017 and I became president of the AAC Board, I felt like she was my cheerleader. For that, I will be forever grateful. Rest in Peace my “Arkansas sister.”
Debbie Wise Debbie Wise Randolph County Circuit Clerk / AAC Board President
One of the ways Judy Beth Hutcherson left a lasting impression on those she encountered was to hand out $1 million bills. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
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Arkansas’ pillars for educational success
’d like to talk about the pillars of our education system that allow Arkansans to adapt to an economy that grows more complex and more high-tech by the day. We must preserve and strengthen these pillars for our young people as they pursue satisfying careers. The first pillar is an unshakable commitment to the fundamentals of education: in-classroom learning built upon effective instruction in core subject areas taught by high-quality teachers. In Arkansas, we know that school isn’t really school without that pillar. That was one of the crucial considerations when we decided to continue in-person learning throughout the past school year, even in the face of well-intentioned resistance. Arkansas was one of only four states to do that. The value of in-person school — with sports, band, socializing, and teacher contact — over the isolation of remote learning was clear. In rural areas, we boosted teacher pay to retain good teachers so that all students had adequate instruction regardless of their ZIP code. A commitment to the fundamentals goes beyond attending school in person. Core reading and literacy skills are vital to success in the classroom, in life, and in every career path. Here’s a bit of history to confirm our commitment to the basics. In 2017, we saw a pressing need to increase reading skills throughout our schools. We established the Reading Initiative for Student Excellence to provide reading instruction based upon the science of reading emphasizing phonics. We also worked to create a culture of reading in the schools, with individualized help to assure third-grade students read at grade level. This significant initiative will increase the number of students who are reading and performing at the highest level. The second pillar is our commitment to embrace 21st Century tools as we teach the fundamentals. The first step in that was the computer science requirements we imple-
mented. These requirements have set us apart from other states and contributed to our reputation as an attractive state for innovative companies across a host of industries. Our success in Arkansas is Hon. ASA proof that we can quickly overHuTCHINSON come stereotypes and increase Governor of Arkansas test scores. Computer science was just the beginning. Even before COVID struck, broadband connectivity was fast becoming essential for us to compete with other states. When the CARES Act opened new opportunities for funding, we redoubled our efforts to take broadband to students in rural and low-income areas. The third pillar is our public-private partnerships. When it comes to connectivity and workforce training, the government cannot and should not go it alone. Arkansas’s Ready for Life initiative allows the private sector the opportunity to participate in building our workforce. Ready for Life is a one-stop website (https://www.readyforlife.com/) where jobseekers, educators, and employers can find each other. That’s our formula. No. 1. Teach the old-school fundamentals. No. 2. Enthusiastically embrace 21st Century tools to teach the fundamentals. No. 3. Enhance public-private partnerships in support of education. Do those three things, and success will come naturally.
Asa Hutchinson The Honorable Asa Hutchinson Governor of Arkansas
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.
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AG Opinions: from military leave to release of employment information AG OPINION NO. 2021-035 Ark. Code § 21-4-102 affords employees of the state and political subdivisions a certain number of days of paid leave to participate in optional training. The AG concluded that first responders and law enforcement positions of the cities, counties and state are allowed to take the leave of absence provided for voluntary or non-mandatory military training or service. The fact the employee is a first responder or law enforcement officer does not create an exclusion from the leave granted by the law. The city, county or state employer is required to keep the position open until the employee returns from the leave. The leave under the law is limited to 15 days, plus necessary travel time, during any one calendar year. AG OPINION NO. 2021-054 The AG was faced with numerous questions involving several topics such as elections, campaign activities, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and county election commissions. The AG determined the county clerk may not use poll books to verify signatures. Ark Code § 7-5-4040 requires the county clerk to verify applications for absentee ballots by comparing the signature on the ballot with signatures from the voter registration application. Denial of an absentee ballot is to be on the basis of comparison of the signatures of the voter registration application and the ballot. The AG reiterated the law prohibiting county employees from using government property to promote or oppose a campaign. The AG also noted that the election commission is allocated the duty responsible for designating the location where election officials may meet to canvass (interfering with that conduct should be avoided). As a general rule, the county judge’s custody and control over county property should not be used to unduly interfere with the free exercise and conducting of elections, such as lawfully established early voting sites, polling sites or election day vote centers. The AG noted that meetings of election commissioners are public meetings under the law and should be made open to the public. However, there may be reasonable restrictions such as limited seating or capacity limitations. The AG determined that when the election commission meets to conduct official business, including when it meets to canvass absentee ballots or to determine the validity of provisional ballots, such meetings are public meetings subject to the open meeting requirements of the FOIA. AG OPINION NO. 2021-083 The AG further explained the limits of the FOIA in COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
disclosing information on an employment application. The FOIA requested information from personnel records, however, the Mark Whitmore subject records included the backAAC Chief Counsel ground check and charges that were nolle prossed and expunged/ sealed. As a general rule, the AG has consistently opined that a public servant’s criminal history is generally subject to disclosure under the FOIA unless the records have been sealed or expunged. Certain records in the subject request were nolle prossed and were sealed or expunged pursuant to Ark. Code § 25-19-906. Those particular records should therefore not be released and shall be redacted from the information provided to the requester. A few exceptions exist for release of expunged or sealed records, and those exceptions are set forth under Ark. Code § 16-90-1416(a) and 16-90-903(a). The AG reiterated that even if a document, when considered as a whole, meets the test for disclosure, it may contain discrete pieces of information that have to be redacted. Some items that must be redacted include: • Personal contact information of public employees, including personal telephone numbers, personal e-mail addresses, and home addresses (Ark. Code Ann. § 2519-105(b)(13)); • Employee personnel number (Ops. Att’y Gen. 2014094, 2007-070); • Marital status of employees and information about dependents (Op. Att’y Gen. 2001-080); • Dates of birth of public employees (Op. Att’y Gen. 2007-064); • Social security numbers (Ops. Att’y Gen. 2006-035, 2003-153); • Medical information (Op. Att’y Gen. 2003-153); • Any information identifying certain law enforcement officers currently working undercover (Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(b)(10)); • Driver’s license number and photocopy of driver’s license (Ops. Att’y Gen. 2017-125, 2013-090); • Insurance coverage (Op. Att’y Gen. 2004-167); • Tax information or withholding (Ops. Att’y Gen. 2005-194, 2003-385); • Payroll deductions (Op. Att’y Gen. 98-126); and • Banking information (Op. Att’y Gen. 2005-194). 13
SEEMS TO ME...
Good boss, bad boss, good leader, bad leader: Which one are you
eems to me, a good boss makes his or her employees realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could. Your greatest accomplishment as a boss/leader may not be something you do but someone you raise or develop — an employee. I don’t know that anyone really wants to be or makes it their life goal to be a “bad boss.” But sometimes I wonder because there are so many bad bosses and people in leadership positions in the work place. County elected officials are put in a leadership position by the electorate in your county. They elected you to be a servant to them and a boss over a particular office and element of county government. Don’t mess it up with bad boss behaviors and complexity. Bad boss behaviors lead to poor employee engagement and high turnover. When you have a boss/leader that treats you with respect and has your back, you are more likely to give your best and stay longer as an employee. But when you have a bad boss, you’re much more likely to be disengaged, suffer from anxiety and want to leave. All of us in leadership positions probably want to be a good leader — a good boss — but too many times we exhibit bad boss behaviors. Here are some of the worst bad boss behaviors — complete deal breakers: 1. Micromanaging — This is a killer of creativity and innovation in the workplace. It promotes an environment of distrust as employees feel suffocated and confined. If you hire someone for a job, give them room to get it done. President Teddy Roosevelt said, “The best executive (boss/leader) is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” 2. Taking the credit for employees’ work or successes — Bad bosses will do almost anything to look good, including taking credit for the employee’s work or ideas. Self-promotion is their top priority. It is demoralizing and demotivating to work hard to earn something only to have it unfairly taken away. Is that employee going to stay engaged? I doubt it. 3. Ignoring feedback; not listening — Some bosses don’t listen to employees or they only want positive feedback. They don’t admit mistakes. They take negative feedback personally and treat those poorly that give it. Onlooking employees learn not to say any14
thing. Employees know they are wasting their time and stop giving helpful feedback. Andy Stanley, a great leadership coach and orator, said, “Leaders who refuse to listen Eddie A. Jones will eventually be surrounded by County Consultant people who have nothing helpful to say.” 4. Not standing up for employees — Ever get thrown under the bus? Bad bosses throw employees under the bus. If someone makes a mistake they turn into judge, jury and executioner. They are quick to point fingers and it leaves employees feeling like they are on crumbling sand — a precarious situation. 5. Flying off the handle when things go wrong — Some bad bosses “lose their cool” when things don’t go like they want them to or think they should. These bosses/leaders have low emotional intelligence and employees know to stay away when they are upset. They insult employees or come off as disrespectful with the tone they use. They are the bosses that make employees cry. They rely on fear and intimidation. Employees have to walk on eggshells in the workplace and productivity is hindered. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, likes to be around this type of person, let alone work for one. 6. Displaying incompetence — These leaders view their position as one of entitlement rather than of responsibility. They fail to give clear direction or provide feedback. They may have reached this position based on “The Peter Principle,” which states the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. What does that mean? It means that bosses/leaders rise to the level of their incompetence. That can happen so easily in the role of elected county official. You are hired by the masses and most of them have no idea the intricacies of what they are electing/hiring you for. And you may have not known the depth of what you were asking for. To use another Andy Stanley quote that is apropos, “Authority does not equal competency. Pass decisions down to those who can best handle them.” A leader’s job is to facilitate a good working environment for the employees. Good bosses are comfortable and secure in who they are. Bad bosses are competing with their subCOUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
SEEMS TO ME...
ordinates — their employees. Bad bosses create toxic work ment’s chances for success. That support comes in the form environments, and toxic work environments drain employees of time, resources, and effort. Every other priority should support those two priorities. emotionally, mentally, and physically. Employees in these Just because you are the elected official doesn’t make you circumstances become so disengaged to the point, they are the one with all the good ideas. County elected officials only there for the paycheck until they quit. should not be afraid to ask their employees for feedback Good bosses are fewer and farther between than they should be. Employees long for such bosses who will support, and suggestions. Engage your employees. You will end up being grateful for the feedback, constructive criticism, and inspire, and help them grow — making their work experithe efforts of your employees to make improvements going ence a memorable experience. Bosses shape how people forward. And give them credit for good ideas. spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomperform well or badly, or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, plish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Years ago, when there are hoards of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out I was an elected official I served with an elected official that there, and big gaps between the best and the worst. A leader insisted upon good ideas being his … at least that was my leads by example. conclusion from his actions. I would take an idea or thought And remember, “complexity is your enemy.” Richard to him about some Branson says, “Any fool county issue, function can make something or service and it was f you’re an Arkansas county official — a boss — complicated. It is hard never met with accepto keep things simple.” tance. There was always ask yourself: When I look back at how I have Simplicity is somesomething wrong with times the most difficult my idea. I took these treated followers, peers, employees, will I have earned thing to find in manideas to him because he agement — the boss/ was the chief executive the right to be proud of myself? Or will I be ashamed leader. It is difficult officer of the county. Almost every time working in an environof myself and embarrassed by how I have trampled on without exception, ment where complexity within a few weeks or is the gold standard. others’ dignity day after day? two or three months It can even wear out he would come to my the best employees and office to present an cause them to start planning their exit strategy. idea — my earlier idea verbatim. But now it was his idea so it As an elected county official — a boss — do you make things too complicated? Take inventory. Here are a few things was a good idea. I never said, “Hey, that’s my idea.” I would that are signs of a boss who likes to make things complicated: simply agree that it was a great idea and would encourage him to pursue it. It didn’t matter to me who got credit. It was something good for our county government operation and • They waste employee’s time on multiple useless meetings. needed to happen regardless of whose idea it was. • They don’t delegate or empower employees because If you’re an Arkansas county official — a boss — ask yourthey prefer to micromanage. self: When I look back at how I have treated followers, peers, • They are inflexible and focus on the red tape. employees, will I have earned the right to be proud of myself? • They withhold information to ensure they are always Or will I be ashamed of myself and embarrassed by how I the smartest person in the room. have trampled on others’ dignity day after day? • They don’t train, mentor or coach employees for fear Leadership and being a boss is simple but we make it they may surpass them or they may see things are sim- complicated. It’s the simple things people remember — the pler than they make it out to be. And in the case of an simple gesture, the kind word, the much-needed support. elected county official they may withhold the training Simplicity comes from putting people first. If you want loyal or mentoring for fear that an employee will run against employees, stop making things so complicated. them in the next election. Seems to me, nothing so conclusively proves a person’s ability to lead others as what he or she does from day to day to lead himself or herself. Good boss, bad boss, good leader or A good boss and leader has two main priorities: (1) Remove all unnecessary obstacles from your employees’ path so bad leader — which one are you? Take care of your employthey have a greater chance for success; and (2) Make available ees and they will take care of you and your county office. It’s as much support as possible to increase your office or depart- as simple as that.
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County jail reimbursement: history and future increases
By Josh curtis Governmental Affairs Director and DYLAN LOFTON AAC Law Clerk
ounties in Arkansas continue to face heavy costs for providing services to state prisoners who are being held in county jails. Despite easing the burden placed on the state of Arkansas and state prison facilities, our counties struggle financially to shoulder these heavy costs. With a reimbursement rate for county jails below what is needed to cover these costs per prisoner per day, our counties continue to face the brunt of a challenging financial situation while assisting in state responsibilities. Raising the reimbursement rate for county jails should be a priority of the state of Arkansas if we are serious about supporting local government closest to the people of our state.
History of State Inmate Costs and County Jail Reimbursement
The origins of county jail reimbursement for housing state inmates began in 1981 with the passage of Act 737. This Act provided appropriation and funding for county jail reimbursement, while also setting an expected rate of reimbursement for counties. Act 737 provided appropriations and supplemental funding to cover the cost of counties housing state inmates. The total reimbursement allowed for the years of 1982 and 1983 was set at $100,000 per year, while the expected rate the state would pay to counties was estimated at $8 per day. This approach was flawed in that the level of reimbursement was based primarily on the amount appropriated, instead of actual costs incurred by our counties. In 1985, the approach of the state of Arkansas changed for county jail reimbursement. Reimbursement rates began to be variable, depending on the costs submitted by each county. However, the cap on reimbursement was set at $18 per day regardless of if the costs to the county were greater than this maximum threshold. This change lasted until 1991, when the county jail reimbursement rate was increased to $25 per prisoner per day. In 2001, the reimbursement rate was again raised to $28 per prisoner per day. This change also reflected costs across four areas of caring for state prisoners: care, custody, treatment, and transportation. This rate remained constant for over a decade until Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved an increase in 2015 to $30 per prisoner per day. This was further increased to the current reimbursement rate of $32 per prisoner per day in 2020 upon approval by Gov. Hutchinson. 16
The County Jail Reimbursement Fund Today
Funding supporting counties in housing and caring for state prisoners comes from the County Jail Reimbursement Fund, which is described in A.C.A. § 19-5-1045. The fund is used by the Arkansas Division of Correction (DOC) for reimbursing counties that house prisoners sentenced to DOC. Additionally, the fund is used by the Arkansas Division of Community Corrections (DCC) for reimbursing counties that are housing different classifications of prisoners, including prisoners: (1) Sentenced to the DCC, (2) Placed on probation if the probation includes incarceration in the DCC, or (3) Confined in county jail under a prerelease program or sanction enacted for violation of a supervised condition. See A.C.A. § 19-5-1045. The reimbursement process for the DOC and DCC is similar in many regards. Importantly, if the DOC cannot accept inmates due to insufficient bedspace, DOC reimburses counties from the County Jail Reimbursement Fund. The rates of reimbursement are determined by the “Chief Fiscal Officer of the State,” who consults with Arkansas Legislative Audit and the DOC. The rate of reimbursement must also be approved by the Governor. Reimbursement is given to counties until the applicable appropriated funding for county jail reimbursement runs out. See A.C.A. § 12-27-114. Similarly, if the DCC is unable to house inmates from county jails due to insufficient bed space or if DCC decided to confine an inmate in a county jail under a pre-release program or sanction for violating supervision conditions, they must reimburse the counties following the same process for the determination of rates as followed by DOC. See A.C.A. § 12-27-114.
How Are Our Counties Currently Faring?
Despite gradual increases in the reimbursement since the 1980s, counties continue to assume a large financial obligation for housing and caring for state prisoners. We are thankful that Gov. Asa Hutchinson made this a priority and moved the ball down the field. The amount appropriated by the legislature for county jail reimbursement was recently set at $20,453,607 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022. This appropriation reflects approximately 1,800 state inmates per day in county jails. There is no guarantee that funding will increase if the average exceeds 1,800 inmates per day. According to the State Inmate Cost Study for Calendar Year 2020 compiled by the Association of Arkansas Counties and verified by Arkansas Legislative Audit (https://www.arcounties.org/site/assets/ files/5932/2020_inmate_cost_study.pdf ) the cost of housing and caring for a state inmate comes in at an average of $63.36. Of all the counties included in the AAC’s State Inmate Cost COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
AAC Study for Calendar Year 2020, every single county faced “Cost per Day Verified,” higher than the $32 per prisoner per day. This financial burden for housing and caring for state inmates hits all Arkansas counties regardless of population size, demographic, and region of the state. In short, there is no immunity from the financial burden imposed for a county of any sort.
Arkansas and Other States
Many states across our nation offer reimbursement rates that cover a greater cost than the current reimbursement rate employed in Arkansas. Different reimbursement methods are also offered by different states. Notably, a variety of states have implemented more generous rates and methods of reimbursement that ensure the fiscal responsibility of housing state prisoners in county jails is not overly burdensome on counties. In Kansas, state reimbursement is made on a per diem basis and counties submit to the Department of Corrections their own associated maintenance costs. For the largest counties in the state, reimbursement rates are typically between $51.78 and $88.85. However, most counties in Kansas receive between $30 to $40, or the counties’ daily rate. Whichever amount is the lesser of the two is the amount awarded. These rates are above those we currently award in Arkansas. Requiring the lower value of the two helps ensure the costs associated with housing state prisoners are still adequately covered, while ensuring the state is not spending more than necessary. See State Prisoners in County Jails, National Association of Counties (NACo). North Carolina provides a reimbursement rate to county jails greater than that offered in Arkansas, while limiting the type of state prisoners held in county facilities that the county may be reimbursed for. North Carolina limits reimbursement to state inmates in county jails that are subject to a state sentence of 90 days or more. The county is paid for these inmates each day for time held in the county prison during their sentence. The rate paid per day for these prisoners is $40. Extraordinary medical expenses for these prisoners are also reimbursed to the county by the state. These rates are above those currently awarded in Arkansas and offers both a bright line rule and financial reimbursement to counties. See State Pris-
oners in County Jails, NACo. Arizona imposes a strict system for the transfer and reimbursement of state prisoners in county jails. The Arizona Department of Corrections is given a time limit in which state prisoners can be housed in county jails. After being held in county jail for 10 days after sentencing, the Arizona Department of Corrections must receive the state prisoners. This helps ensure state prisoners are not sitting in county jails for an over-extensive period, while also easing the financial burden on the counties. Notably, the reimbursement rates in Arizona do vary from a minimum of $30.09 to a high of $69.14. With such a broad range, some county jails are receiving less than county jails here in Arkansas. However, a strong portion of county jails are receiving reimbursement rates above our current rate of $32 per day. The benefits of the Arizona system are a limit on the amount of time county jails are responsible for state prisoners, while also ensuring county jails receive adequate compensation for the services they deliver to state prisoners. See State Prisoners in County Jails, NACo.
How Can the State Help our Counites?
The unreimbursed costs of county jails housing and caring for state inmates has posed budgetary issues for all counties. While our counties may be able to rely on budgetary maneuvers and the use of county general revenue to cover these costs temporarily, not addressing the current gap in the rate of reimbursement and actual costs faced by counties for state inmates poses a long-term challenge in county budgeting and finance. While we are thankful for increases in the reimbursement rate, further increases in appropriation and the reimbursement rate are necessary to cover the costs faced by county jails in providing services for state prisoners. The amount being received by counties from the state is simply not enough. The rate and amount at which the reimbursement has been gradually increased falls short of what is needed by our counties to provide state inmates held in county jail facilities with care, custody, treatment, and transportation. Ensuring our counties receive the necessary amount of reimbursement for these responsibilities should be a top priority for our state government.
75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
RISK MANAGEMENT SERVICES Exploring two types of immunity
mmunity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products.” Over the last 20 months, we have sought immunity at a level most of us have never experienced or imagined. Before March 2020, we casually approached issues surrounding common illnesses like the flu and a cold and may have even championed those people who came to work even though they weren’t feeling well. In stark contrast, at the beginning of the pandemic, we provided detailed recommendations for detention facilities to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Arkansas’ county jails. The response was robust and lasting. All the work put in on the front end — managing the risk — has proven worthwhile. While Arkansas prisons have experienced high rates of COVID-19 infection and death among inmates and staff, county jails have successfully navigated mass testing, mass quarantine and isolation, and even mass vaccination, without a single inmate death. Considering our average statewide county jail population of approximately 10,000 detainees, that is incredible. Although we are now seeing a decline in infection numbers in Arkansas, let me encourage you to stay the course. The pandemic has shown the limits of our physical structures and the heavy burdens carried by our public sector employees. What will you do to manage the risk of another contagious illness in your facility? Continuing COVID protocols such as use of hand-sanitizer and emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting common areas will help you combat other illnesses like influenza or the common cold. Continuing to use Justice Bridge for court appearances or telemedicine offer greater protection to detainees and persons at the courthouses or medical offices. We can use what was learned during the height of the pandemic to create a safer, more efficient system for the future. Immunity has another meaning just as important for government workers: “freedom from legal liability.” It could be judicial immunity, sovereign immunity, or the immunity that we deal with the most — qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is not “good faith immunity.” In fact, the intent or motivation of an officer does not matter in the analysis of a claim such as excessive force. Qualified immunity protects a state actor from liability when the right asserted was not clearly established, meaning the actor had no notice that their conduct would violate the Constitution. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 US 635 (1987). For example, in a case alleging police misconduct, unless a court has declared similar behavior in a previous case to be unconstitutional, the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. In two recent cases, the US. Supreme Court reversed decisions that had denied officers the protections of qualified immunity — signaling a stronger emphasis on whether the constitutional right at issue was clearly established. In City of 18
Tahlequah v. Bond, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had denied qualified immunity because it deemed the conduct (running into a garage towards a drunken subject who was wielding a hammer, firing their weapons, and killing the subject when he JANAN THOMAS Risk Management raised the hammer above his head Litigation Counsel and began to step towards them) of the officers in that case “reckless.” The Supreme Court held that the cases upon which the 10th Circuit relied for their decision were “dramatically different” and that “[i]t is not enough that a rule be suggested by then-existing precedent; the ‘rule’s contours must be so well defined that it is “clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.”’” On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court also reversed in part a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna, police were responding to an emergency call that a woman and her children were barricaded in a room for fear that the subject was going to hurt them. Police arrived and after the subject was ordered out of the house and onto the ground, the officer placed his knee on the subject’s back for approximately eight seconds while another officer removed a knife from the subject’s pocket and handcuffed him. The 9th Circuit denied qualified immunity finding that the officer violated a clearly established right. The Court relied on LaLonde v. County of Riverside, 204 F.3d 947 (9th Cir. 2000), and found that both cases “involve suspects who were lying face-down on the ground and were not resisting either physically or verbally, on whose back the defendant officer leaned with a knee, causing allegedly significant injury.” The Supreme Court disagreed and found that LaLonde and the facts in Rivas-Villegas were not similar (LaLonde involved a noise complaint where the subject was located holding a sandwich and refusing entry into his home when the officer knocked the sandwich from his hand, grabbed him by the ponytail, and knocked him backwards to the ground. While handcuffing LaLonde, an officer “deliberately dug his knee into LaLonde’s back with force that caused long-term if not permanent damage.”) The Court held that the decision in LaLonde would not have put the officer on notice that his specific conduct (placing his knee on subject’s back for eight seconds) was unlawful. The takeaway is that qualified immunity is still a valuable defense in claims alleging a violation of constitutional rights. County officials, particularly law enforcement officers, must modify their practice and policies as the law changes and certain conduct becomes a “clearly established violation of rights.” COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
Opioid litigation update: Right where we want to be
he Arkansas opioid epidemic is a local problem in need of local solutions. This has been our theme since we filed the united litigation on behalf of Arkansas counties, cities, and the state, on the ides of March 2018. All 75 Arkansas counties are plaintiffs together — authorized by their county judges. Nearly all 500+ cities and towns of Arkansas also are engaged in this litigation through their mayors and the Arkansas Municipal League. Counties and cities have worked together as a team from Day 1. Our case is still the only case like it in the country. County, city, and state governments have not united to this degree in any other case in the United States. The unity of Arkansas governments has been beneficial in national settlement negotiations and the bankruptcy proceedings of two significant opioid manufacturers. Arkansas counties and cities speak with a powerful voice in national negotiations, just as in your lawsuit. We have worked since Spring 2020 to negotiate a memorandum of understanding (MOU) among the county, city, and state governments of Arkansas to control what happens with funds designated for Arkansas from any settlement, bankruptcy, or judgment, in opioid litigation. An MOU among all the governments of Arkansas is essential. At a meeting in December 2020 about the MOU, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked us to obtain signed acknowledgements from county judges and mayors authorizing AAC Director Chris Villines to sign the MOU for counties and authorizing Municipal League Director Mark Hayes to sign the MOU for cities. We obtained and provided the acknowledgements as requested. Gov. Hutchinson, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Villines, and Hayes, all signed the Arkansas Opioids MOU in July. The MOU we have negotiated with the state includes an equal split of Arkansas settlement dollars among the state, counties, and cities — 1/3 of every dollar is allocated to the state, 1/3 of every dollar is allocated to cities, and 1/3 of every dollar is allocated to counties. This unified, equal split among the governments of Arkansas is an excellent result for the Arkansas governments, and most important, for the people of Arkansas. The Arkansas Opioids MOU unites the governments of Arkansas, and will help the state, counties, and cities, ensure that settlement funds that flow into Arkansas are used appropriately to fight the opioid epidemic in Arkansas. The Arkansas MOU and the unity of Arkansas governments also increases the likelihood that our collective share of any national settlement will be the maximum amount available to Arkansas under the settlement, instead of a lesser amount. We worked for over a year to negoCOUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
tiate this MOU among the governments of Arkansas, and we are excited to achieve the goal of unity among Arkansas governments and an allocation and abatement plan for Arkansas that makes sense for Colin Jorgensen Arkansas. Huge congratulations Risk Management Litigation Counsel are in order, because the governments have come together and agreed to do their best to respond to the Arkansas opioid epidemic, together. Your vision has been realized in the Arkansas Opioids MOU. The Arkansas Opioids MOU is probably the best news we will be privileged to report, related to opioid litigation — but there is more good news. Recently, there has been news of $26 billion in potential national settlements with several of the opioid defendants: distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). The potential settlements with these defendants were made public in late July. The legal team representing Arkansas counties has been involved in these settlement discussions from the beginning, and we have closely reviewed the proposed national settlement agreements — over 500 pages and extremely complex. Under the potential settlements, states had until early September to decide whether to participate. Forty-two states, including Arkansas, approved the settlements. The defendants determined this was a sufficient number to move forward with the process. Counties and cities now have 120 days to decide whether to participate in the potential settlements. The majority of Arkansas county judges and mayors have already decided to participate in these settlements. If the settlements make it to the finish line, they will become effective in April 2022, and 18 years of payments to governments across the country will begin in April and July 2022. There is also news from the Purdue bankruptcy. In September, the judge presiding over the Purdue bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York — Judge Robert D. Drain — confirmed the Purdue bankruptcy plan in a six-hour ruling from the bench (later reduced to a written order). The confirmation plan reorganizes Purdue in bankruptcy and provides for payments to plaintiff governments and other creditors nationwide. The Purdue bankruptcy plan operates much like a settlement because the bankruptcy creditors are mostly opioid litigation plaintiffs. Most governments that have lodged claims in the Purdue bankruptcy support the See
Litigation plan recently approved by Judge Drain, including Arkansas counties and cities. But the United States Trustee and three states are appealing Judge Drain’s confirmation order. They requested a stay of the confirmation order pending their appeal. If the confirmation order is put on hold pending appeal, this could delay payments to government plaintiffs/creditors from the Purdue bankruptcy for months, or even years. Arkansas counties and cities are part of a large group of local governments that oppose the request for a stay of the confirmed Purdue plan. I prepared a declaration of sworn testimony to assist with this effort, and my declaration was admitted into evidence on this issue at a hearing on Nov. 9, 2021. I testified briefly at the hearing, in response to questions from Judge Drain. At the end of the hearing, Judge Drain declined to issue a stay, partially in reliance on the evidence from Arkansas. Funds from the Purdue bankruptcy could begin to flow around the same time as funds from the other potential settlements, in 2022 — although the precise timing is unknown at this time. Opioid litigation settlement dollars — from the potential settlements with the distributors and Janssen, the Purdue bankruptcy, and other future settlements and bankruptcies — will be subject to court supervision. These funds can only be spent for future programs, projects, and strategies to end the opioid epidemic. For these future efforts to be effective, Arkansas counties must continue our cooperation with cities and with the state. That partnership began with the MOU.
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Together, we can use these settlement dollars to establish a remediation program designed to help Arkansans who have been harmed by the opioid epidemic. No county or city can do this alone, nor can the state. We are in discussions with representatives of the Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office, and leadership of the House and Senate, about building an appropriate structure and process for management and disbursement of Arkansas opioid funds. Much work remains to be done, but we are right where we want to be — to maximize the impact of your opioid litigation on our communities, families, and addicts. Here is a portion of my testimony in the Purdue bankruptcy on behalf of Arkansas counties — it mirrors the message we have delivered through your litigation from the beginning: “If we had enough funding to equip all first responders in all corners of the state with naloxone and give naloxone directly to addicts and those close to addicts, more lives would be saved. If we had enough funding to provide syringe services and other recommended interventions, more lives would be saved. If we had enough funding to pair immediate interventions with short-term diversion programs and long-term treatment programs, we could reduce the number of repeat overdoses. And more lives would be saved. And some of those saves would lead to stable recovery — not only lives saved but lives reborn.”
Attorney General announces opioid settlement, collaboration
The Association of Arkansas Counties, Arkansas Municipal League, numerous law enforcement officers, city leaders, and county judges joined Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Oct. 7, 2021, for a press conference during which the General announced a multimillion dollar opioid settlement and a collaboration among the state, cities, and counties. Left: The Attorney General discusses the settlement and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Right: AAC Executive Director Chris Villines remarks upon the collaboration. 20
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WELLNESS & SAFETY
Pandemic weight gain: Is it a real thing?
he short answer is yes, it is a real thing. A February 2021 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 42 percent of American adults reported “undesired weight gain” since the start of the pandemic. The average weight gain reported was 29 pounds. Those of us in the 42 percent should not beat ourselves up. As someone who has been there and done that, I understand that we put a lot of guilt and shame on ourselves over the number on the scales. According to Amy Walters, PhD, a clinical health psychologist and the director of Behavioral Health Services for St. Luke’s Humphreys Diabetes Center, “We have to realize that weight gain is a normal reaction to an abnormal circumstance. So many of our coping strategies have been unavailable to us in the last year. It’s not a character flaw.” If you think we have not all been hit with pandemic weight gain, then Google “Will Smith Covid Body.” Yes, even the uber rich, super popular, in fantastic shape Will Smith revealed in May that he was in the “worst shape of his life.” By the way, his post-quarantine video of his first trip to the gym is pretty funny. Stacy Ogbeide, PsyD, ABPP, a clinical health psychologist and board-certified specialist in obesity and weight management at the University of Texas Health Science Center who specializes in obesity and weight management says, “After the year we’ve had, we should all be giving ourselves a break. Though the pandemic has hit some of us harder than others, we’ve all been impacted, and it’s important to give ourselves and each other some grace. Self-compassion is the No. 1 thing we should be focusing on now.” In her article “The Extra Weight of COVID-19,” Kirsten Weir agrees that self-compassion is step one. She gives some recommendations on where to begin based on behavior change. 1. Start with modest goals. That was one of the first things I had to learn in my own weight loss journey. I would set unrealistic goals, then give up and dive into a huge bowl of ice cream. Experts say it is important to start with sustainable and realistic targets for change. David Sarwer, PhD, suggests, “If you have a habit of eating ice cream three nights a week, can you reduce that to once a week? Can you eliminate some of the cream and sugar from your daily coffee? When people make small changes, they’re more likely to succeed. Those successes give people the confidence to set more goals.” Focus on the little victories. 2. Establish new routines. Amy Walters, PhD, says, “Disruptions to routines during the pandemic COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
contributed to weight gain. Creating new schedules is important for establishing healthy habits. Routines can help people get back to the healthy basics, in terms of eating habits, physical Becky Comet activity, sleep, and self-care.” AAC Member 3. Create an environment Benefits Manager for success. This is one of the first things we were told to do after completing “The Biggest Loser.” It is difficult, especially if you have family in your home not prepared to make the healthy changes you want to make. If your home is full of junk food, processed foods, and sweets the best option is to get rid of them completely. Another option is to put those foods somplace easy for you to avoid. Keep accessible healthy snacks — fruits and vegetables, for example — that are prepped and ready to grab when you are hungry or in a hurry. 4. Track yourself. Statistics show the more you track yourself and monitor your behavior, the more weight you lose over time and the better you will be able to maintain that weight loss. Ten years ago, when I started this journey, I kept track of everything I ate and all my activity with a handwritten log. Cell phone apps and fitness trackers have made monitoring yourself even easier. Find what works best for you. 5. Emphasize health, not weight. Do not attempt to lose weight for an event or with an ending date in mind. You are setting yourself up for failure. This is a lifetime journey of taking control and keeping control of your health. It is not about a number on a scale. Focus on small changes — making better and more nutritional food choices, doing something active every day, and getting a good night’s sleep. When this becomes your focus along with doing a little better every day, you win. Our world turned upside down in March 2020. The pandemic-induced changes in our stress levels, diets, activity levels, sleep habits, and daily routines have caused our general health to suffer in many ways. As things begin to turn around, it is time to regain control of our health. Even if you feel like you did not have control before, there is no time like the present to start. Becoming the best version of yourself does not happen overnight. But it will happen if you take hold of the reins. Be kind to and patient with yourself. You can do this. 21
1st Congressional District 2nd Congressional District 3rd Congressional District 4th Congressional District
Last days of the special session
Officials send congressional map, COVID-19 exemptions to Governor.
Story by JORDYN NYKAZA AAC Law Clerk
fter meeting from January to April 2021, state legislators returned to the Capitol this fall. Their main task was to draw new boundaries for Arkansas’ four congressional districts, but they also discussed COVID-19 vaccination mandates and exemptions, and more. The legislature met for 108 days earlier in the year before going into extended recess. Census numbers, used in the redistricting process, were delayed this decennial. Thus, the extended session of the 93rd General Assembly did not convene until Sept. 29. In addition to redistricting, legislators focused their attention on COVID-19 mandates. Both the House and the Senate maintain an archive of meetings on their websites for constituents to watch. However, here is a recap of the 2021 extended legislative session.
Every 10 years, after Census data has been released by the federal government, the state legislature is tasked with redraw22
ing Arkansas’ congressional districts. Redistricting is not as simple as keeping counties together and separating them based on location for congressional district maps. Redistricting is a formal process with rules stipulated by the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Arkansas constitution. Although it is not always popular to split a single county into multiple congressional districts, it is sometimes necessary to equally split the Arkansas population among all four congressional districts. Under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, congressional representatives are to be apportioned to the states based on population. The equal population requirement for congressional districts is strict, as the government wants to ensure the people of each state are equally represented and their vote has as much weight in any congressional district. Under Arkansas’ state constitution, we use a Legislature dominant method to congressional redistricting. This means the legislature has ultimate authority to enact district maps, as opposed to some states that allow a commission, or a commission and the state legislature both to have authority over district maps.
Overall bills presented
During the extended session legislators proposed 93 bills — 61 COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
AAC in the House and 32 in the Senate. Of the 61 bills introduced in the House, 19 related to redistricting and five related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, of the 32 bills introduced in the Senate, 14 related to redistricting and 12 related to COVID-19. The remaining 43 bills introduced related mostly to taxes, schooling, and motor vehicle licensing. While it is interesting to know the volume of bills proposed in such a short amount of time, the people want to know how the legislation passed will change their lives. We will focus on four main bills, all which Gov. Asa Hutchinson allowed to become law without his signature.
House Bill 1982 and Senate Bill 743
House Bill 1982 sponsored by Rep. Nelda Speaks of Mountain Home and Senate Bill 743 sponsored by Sen. Jane English of North Little Rock were twin redistricting bills. The main controversy surrounding these bills is they separate Pulaski County among three districts (the 1st, 2nd and 4th), and they split Sebastian County into two districts (the 3rd and 4th). Nonetheless, the bills passed both chambers. The House bill, now Act 1114 of 2021, was amended twice by the House then passed on with a 59-30 vote. It then passed the Senate with a 21-12 vote. The Senate bill, now Act 1116 of 2021, passed in the Senate with a 22-10 vote; it passed in the House with a 53-35 vote. Emergency clauses for both bills failed.
With these Acts, the 1st Congressional District will include Arkansas, Baxter, Boone, Chicot, Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Desha, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Lincoln, Lonoke, Marion, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, St. Francis, Searcy, Sharp, Stone, and Woodruff counties. In addition, it includes a portion of Pulaski County. In addition to a portion of Pulaski County, the 2nd Congressional District is composed of Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Saline, Van Buren, and White counties. The 3rd Congressional District includes a portion of Sebastian County, as well as Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Madison, and Washington counties. Finally, the 4th Congressional District includes portions of Pulaski and Sebastian counties. It also consists of Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Drew, Franklin, Garland, Grant, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Jefferson, Johnson, Lafayette, Little River, Logan, Miller, Montgomery, Nevada, Newton, Ouachita, Pike, Polk, Pope, Scott, Sevier, Union, and Yell counties.
House Bill 1977 and Senate Bill 739
Both House Bill 1977, sponsored by Rep. Joshua Bryant of See
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Rogers, and Senate Bill 739, sponsored by Sen. Kim Hammer of Benton, were similar in that they provided “employee exemptions from federal mandates and employer mandates related to Coronovirus 2019 (COVID-19).” HB1977 was amended once, then passed by the House in a 68-23 vote. The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 22-12. However, there was debate over the emergency clause, which ultimately failed. The bill became Act 1113. SB739 passed the Senate with a vote of 21-12. The emergency clause on this bill also failed. The House passed the bill 61-25. It is now Act 1115 of 2021. These bills give an exemption for employees from mandates related to COVID-19. They require employers that mandate required vaccination or immunization for COVID-19 to provide a specific exemption process. Rather than be vaccinated, the employee is allowed to show either (1) a negative antigen detection test result no more than one time a week that shows the employee does not have COVID-19, or (2) proof of immunity for COVID-19 such as antibodies at most one time every six months from a licensed healthcare provider. The employee can produce test results by a licensed health-
care provider if the test meets guidelines imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The test will be paid for by state or federal funding made available if it is not covered by the employee’s health benefit plan. If funding is not available, the employee will pay for the test themselves. With this exemption, an employee cannot be terminated for mandates related to COVID-19. If one is terminated, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits in addition to any other remedy available to the employee.
The 93rd General Assembly officially adjourned on Oct. 15, 2021. The Governor has indicated that he plans to call a special session to consider an income tax package. However, during his Oct. 19 media briefing, he said he is “not going to put a time frame on it.” He said he would like to give employers, taxpayers, and tax preparers time to consider the effects of a tax cut plan. He also said he wants to get “it drafted right” and to ensure a majority of legislators agree to a plan that is “acceptable to me.”
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COVID-19 better prepares counties for next unforeseen emergency Story by Hon. Marcus Molinaro Dutchess County Executive and President of the New York State County Executives’ Associations
very American has been impacted in some manner by the COVID-19 pandemic; I, myself, have experienced the loss of a loved one, my father, as have hundreds of thousands of Americans. This pandemic confirmed what county governments throughout New York State — and indeed, throughout the nation — have known for years: The best, most effective governance comes from the leaders who are closest to the residents they serve. Throughout the pandemic, while mandates have been handed down from Washington, D.C. and state capitals, local governments — county governments, in particular — have been the boots on the ground, providing immediate guidance and answers to residents’ concerns. For those of us with years of public service experience, this was not a new notion. Every county has confronted its own emergencies in the past, though nothing nearing the scope of COVID-19. Still, the lessons learned over decades — effective leadership, communication, collaboration chief being among them — well prepared county governments 26
for this unprecedented and ever-evolving pandemic and the response it necessitated. While governors handed down wide-reaching decisions from Albany and Austin to Tallahassee and Topeka, it was up to more than 3,000 county governments nationwide to interpret these directives, rely on their individual community’s specific needs, and put these plans into action. Decisive action on the part of county leaders to stop the spread of this novel coronavirus — whether that was suspending social gatherings, closing schools or something similar — have meant the difference between life and death. The difficult decisions made at the county level weren’t always popular, particularly as the pandemic has worn on, but county leaders had to make public health and safety their top priorities. The need for clear, concise, and factual communication has never been more important than during this pandemic. Especially in areas where traditional media outlets have been dwindling for years, such as my own Dutchess County, the importance of keeping our community informed through social media has been elevated. In our county, for example, we innovated by conducting live online video discussions with residents once or twice a week, allowing residents to receive critical updates while allowing them to have their COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
questions answered by local experts. Online events like these allow county leaders to broadcast live to a vast number of their constituents with just a few keystrokes — providing up-to-date information at a moment’s notice and allowing these residents to interact with their leaders, giving them a fuller sense of the situation around them and the decisions being made on their behalf. Governors often formed the COVID policies that affected millions of residents in their states, but those chief executives were rarely — if ever — available to address the individual concerns of the residents they represent. Rather, it has been the county officials who live among the residents impacted by these actions who have brought real answers to the questions their neighbors raised. The dissemination of information at the local level, though, has only been part of the equation. Communication among counties has seen a boon during these uncertain times, allowing county leaders to consult with their counterparts next door or across the state to collaborate and bring about their best policies for their respective communities. Every county across the country has its own strengths and weaknesses, potential threats and obstacles which make their community unique. We all, however, have good ideas that can transcend geographic borders and benefit other counties; the ability to share those solutions has been invaluable. From the first day of the pandemic, county leaders throughout New York, for example, have worked to share strategies and best practices to bring about the best outcome for their individual communities. No county has worked its way through this pandemic by itself; rather, we’ve all relied on the assistance of our colleagues in other counties to bring about a larger good. Every county executive in New York has unique stories to tell, detailing how they responded to the challenges they face; multiply that by 50 states and the individual county perspectives on this pandemic seem endless. One thing is clear, however: Each of us will be judged on the lessons we learned during this unparalleled time. Every story is important, each perspective valuable in its own way. Sadly, there will be another pandemic that reaches our shores; the only question is when — it might be a year, a decade or a century from now. Though we can’t predict its severity or effect, we can harken back to the lessons learned during COVID-19 and the response of our counties nationwide. County leaders throughout the United States can rightly be proud of the role they played keeping their communities as informed and safe as possible — confident in the knowledge their experiences during COVID-19 have better prepared their counties and this nation for the next unforeseen emergency.
STAFF PROFILE COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR Caitlin Brown
Where were you born and raised? I was born in Pine Bluff and raised in Hot Springs.
The hardest thing I have ever done is: Drive 24 hours in the span of two days from Hot Springs to South Texas and back.
Family information: Recently married to Michael in February 2021 with two dogs, a Sheltie named Polly and a Dachshund mix named Ella.
At the top of my bucket list is to: Travel to New Zealand or Australia.
My favorite meal: Crab legs with lots of butter. When I’m not working: I am spending time with my husband and dogs or creating some sort of art. The accomplishments of which I am most
proud: Growing a small business focused on my love for fiber arts such as hand embroidery and weaving.
You might be surpised to learn that: My family is from Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Caitlin Brown
My pet peeve is: When people don’t respond to important questions that need an answer. Motto or favorite quote: Que Será Será.
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COUNTY ASSESSORS The Arkansas County Assessor’s Association held a fall continuing education meeting on Oct. 28, 2021, in North Little Rock, Pulaski County.
The Association installed its 2021-2022 officers. Pictured are (from left to right) AAC Board Member Heather Stevens (Stone Co.); AAC Board Member Dana Baker (Pope Co.); Secretary/Treasurer Diann Ballard (Jackson Co.); Vice President Kimberly Hollowell (Crittenden Co.); President Beth Rush (Ashley Co.); Region 1 Rep. Shannon Cotton (Logan Co.); Region 2 Rep. Gail Snyder (White Co.); Region 3 Rep. Beckie Alden (Pike Co.); and Region 4 Rep. Becky Hogan (Lee Co.). Far left: Arkansas Assessment Coordination Division (AACD) Deputy Director Robert McGee delivers a presentation on the AACD annual report. Left: Phillips County Assessor Jerome Turner listens to the speakers.
Far left: Jefferson County Assessor Yvonne Humphrey, who is now immediate past president of the association, says a few words of welcome. Left: Greene County Assessor Jane Wheeler Moudy, Crawford County Assessor Sandra Heiner, and Randolph County Assessor Stacy Ingram pose for a photo. 30
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Arkansas County Assessors Association President and Jefferson County Assessor Yvonne Humphrey welcomes assessors to the conference.
Assessors visit with vendors before the meeting.
The Arkansas County Treasurers Association gathered Oct. 20-22, in Little Rock, Pulaski County.
Cleveland County Deputy Treasurer Angie Kimsey and Cleveland County Treasurer Wanda Leopard get prepared for the start of the meeting.
Carroll County Treasurer Makita Williams and Grant County Treasurer Tim Stuckey pose for a photo before the meeting begins. Far left: Izard County Treasurer Warren Sanders laughs during Treasurer Jeopardy, a game geared toward teaching the group about various requirements of their job. Left: Pictured are Columbia County Treasurer Selena Blair and Greene County Treasurer Debbie Cross.
Left: AAC Consultant Eddie A. Jones and Hot Spring County Treasurer Mary Cansler discuss an issue. Right: Faulkner County Treasurer Scott Sanson leads an open mic session during which the group discussed American Rescue Plan funds, among other topics. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
COUNTY CIRCUIT CLERKS The Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association met Oct. 12-15, in Fairfield Bay, Van Buren County.
Above, left: Independence County Circuit Clerk Greg Wallis and Randolph County Circuit Clerk Debbie Wise discuss a hand out. Above, right: The Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association awarded $465,000 in Automated Records Systems grants to circuit clerks in 13 counties to help them improve their existing electronic filing systems or to implement electronic filing in their offices.
Above, left: Van Buren County Circuit Clerk Debbie Gray welcomes the circuit clerks to her county and provides suggestions for shopping, dining, and area activities. Above, right: Ouachita County Circuit Clerk Gladys Nettles (left) stops to talk to Cleburne County Circuit Clerk Heather Smith during a break. Right: AAC RMF Litigation Counsel Brandy McAllister leads a human resources training. Far right: Poinsett County Circuit Clerk Misty Russell, Poinsett County Deputy Clerk Sandy Walker and Lonoke County Circuit Clerk Deborah Oglesby chat during a break. 32
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JUDGES ROAD SEMINAR
Judges and roads personnel gathered Oct. 5-7 at DeGray Lake Resort in Bismarck, Clark County.
Left: Logan County Judge Ray Gack and Madison County Judge Frank Weaver speak during the seminar. Right: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge addresses the group following lunch on Wednesday, Oct. 6.
Left: Lawrence County Judge John Thomison turns to speak to Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison. Right: Hempstead County Judge Jerry Crane and Hempstead County Road Supervisor Richard Kidd work on an assignment. Right: Greene County Road Superintendent Dewayne Smith sits on a panel focusing on Gravel Road Maintenance. Far Right: Lonoke County Attorney Allen Dodson and Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin determine how much gravel is needed to pave a road presented in an exercise. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
GUARDIAN USERS MEETING The AAC hosted a training session for jails that use the GuardianRFID system on Oct. 5.
Lt. Calene Scott and Lt. Lacretia Flowers of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office prepare for the start of the program.
Greg Piper, director of training for GuardianRFID, kicks off the morning with an introduction and a rundown of the day’s agenda.
Above Left: Deputy Director Rodney Shepherd, Director Ronnie Routh, and Supervisor Kyle McCann of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office attended the training. Pulaski County is a new user of the GuardianRFID system. Above Right: Training Sgt. Una Herren and Technology Director Derrick Betancur are from the Pope County Sheriff’s Office.
Above Left: AAC Member Benefits Manager Becky Comet hands a slip of paper with Guardian compliance numbers for the year to Lt. Chris Morris of the Independence County Sheriff’s Office. Above Right: Jailer Cherokee Williams, Lt. Nini Wilson, and Jailer Ikeshia Murphy of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office pose for a photo before the training program begins. 34
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The Arkansas Association of County Clerks met Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, at Mount Magazine Lodge, Logan County.
The clerks installed their new officers for 2022. From left: Greene County Clerk Phyllis Rhynes, Treasurer; Randolph County Clerk Rhonda Blevins, Secretary; Faulkner County Clerk Margaret Darter, 2nd Vice President; Saline County Clerk Doug Curtis, 1st Vice President and AAC Board Member; Cross County Clerk Melanie Winkler, President; Cleburne County Clerk Rachelle Evans, Memberat-Large; St. Francis County Clerk Brandi McCoy, Member-at-Large; and Little River County Clerk Deanna Sivley, Immediate Past Presdient and AAC Board Member. Far left: Outgoing Association President and Little River County Clerk Deanna Sivley accepts gifts and says a few words following the swearing-in ceremony. Left: Cleveland County Clerk Jimmy Cummings and Cleveland County Deputy Clerk Brandy Herring prepare for the day’s presentations.
Above Left: Daniel Schults, director of the State Board of Election Commissioners, discusses election processes and procedures. Above Middle: Pike County Clerk Randy Reid participates in an ice-breaker with state election coordinators. Above Right: Pulaski County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth works on a prop for a team building exercise that required clerks to form teams and perform a cheer. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2021
The County Judges Association of Arkansas met Sept. 1315, in Benton, Saline County.
Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin is sworn in as the new County Judges Association of Arkansas (CJAA) President. His wife, Gail Erwin, joins him.
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the judges’ conference luncheon. CJAA Executive Board members are Franklin County Judge Rickey Bowman, Johnson County Judge Herman Houston, Logan County Judge Ray Gack, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring, CJAA President and Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, CJAA Immediate Past President and Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison, Drew County Judge Robert Akin, Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, Saline County Judge Jeff Arey, Izard County Judge Eric Smith, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day, Clark County Judge Troy Tucker, CJAA 1st Vice-President and Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips, CJAA 2nd Vice-President and Sevier County Judge Greg Ray, and CJAA Secretary/ Treasurer and Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon.
Above Left: The new CJAA Officers are President and Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, 1st Vice-President and Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips, 2nd Vice-President and Sevier County Judge Greg Ray,and Secretary/Treasurer and Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon. Above center: Craighead County Judge Marvin Day and Saline County Judge Jeff Arey speak. Above right: AAC Law Clerk Dylan Lofton speaks on sewer improvement districts’ laws and rules. Bottom right: Friday Law Firm Attorneys Ryan Bowman and Sara Giammo speak on financing capital projects. 36
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