El Dorado News

Tuesday
May 22, 2018
El Dorado News Times

Tax collector claims county background checks meant to target employee

County judge: Move meant to protect county from liability issues in bond coverage

By Kaitlyn Rigdon
This article was published November 7, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

A new requirement for all Union County employees to submit to a background check has caused an issue in the tax collector’s office, with Tax Collector Paula Beard now saying that the policy was implemented to target one of her employees.

On Monday, Beard issued a statement concerning the move to require background checks after the News-Times reported that the Union County Quorum Court had held a special meeting Friday to discuss taking legal action because of one employee who has not complied with the ordinance.

Ordinance 1457, which was passed on Sept. 21, requires all county employees and officials to submit to a criminal background check and sign a written agreement authorizing the checks.

The only person who has not complied is the executive administrator of the tax collector’s office, Conor Gleason, who previously called the ordinance unconstitutional. At the meeting Friday, the resolution being discussed stated that because one employee has failed to sign the consent form, the county’s fidelity bond coverage is in jeopardy.

Last month, the Quorum Court passed a resolution stating those who refuse to consent to the background checks would have their pay withheld. Gleason is currently working without being paid, which County Judge Mike Loftin considers a liability.

Beard said she completely supports the need for background checks, but has issues with the process being used. She previously voiced her concern about Loftin receiving all of the background checks, suggesting that they instead be reviewed by a committee. She said Gleason signed the form submitting to a background check, but it has not been turned in to Loftin.

In her statement, which was delivered to the News-Times on Monday, Beard said the ultimate goal of the ordinance was to remove one particular employee. Though Gleason was not mentioned by name in the statement, his is the only form she has not turned over to Loftin.

“Upon the passing of Ordinance 1457, I was immediately informed that the ordinance was allegedly targeting one of my employees,” Beard wrote, without specifying where the information came from.

In the statement, Beard said that a county official has expressed bias and a willingness to terminate the employee, regardless of what was found during the background check, which is why the form has not been turned over.

When asked about Beard’s comments, Loftin said he was unaware that Beard had Gleason’s consent form, adding that he has received everyone else’s consent forms, including Beard’s.

Loftin also said he plans on putting together a committee to look over the results of the background checks, once they are ready. He said he is currently sending 25 or 30 background checks at a time to the state police.

“When all of those background checks come back, I’m going to appoint a committee of three or four from the Quorum Court to sit down upstairs in the conference room and we’re going to call each official in and we’re going to show them the background checks for their employees,” Loftin said.

When reached by phone Monday afternoon, Beard said she was unaware of Loftin’s plans to form a committee. Until such a plan is expressed in writing, she said, she will continue to oppose the move.

Loftin said he is not targeting anyone in the county, but simply trying to ensure the county is following correct standards. The ordinance was passed after a discussion of bond coverage and at the recommendation of attorneys Gary Burbank and Burt Newell.

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or krigdon@eldoradonews.com.

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