El Dorado News

Friday
December 15, 2017
El Dorado News Times

Background checks continue to cause conflict at county

By Janice McIntyre
This article was published November 17, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

Stating that he is not a “two-time convicted felon” and “has not done time in jail,” Conor Gleason, executive administrator in the Union County Tax Collector’s Office, said he has not turned in his background check to Union County Judge Mike Loftin – but he has turned in the document to county Tax Collector Paula Beard.

During a regular meeting of the Union County Quorum Court on Thursday, Beard requested that the court agree to pay Gleason for 130 hours in back pay – checks withheld to comply with the court’s ordinance to “withhold payments from previously appropriated funds covering salaries of employees who refuse to consent to the criminal background check.”

“I’m the only one not getting paid,” Gleason said during the meeting and questioned why justices of the peace have not already submitted their background checks.

Quorum court members said they just received the forms for background checks Thursday and all agreed to sign written consents for the checks. Justices of the peace receive a stipend each month to serve on the quorum court.

According to Ordinance 1457, which was approved by justices of the peace Sept. 21, all county employees and officials are required to submit to a criminal background check and sign written consent forms. After it became clear that at least one employee had failed to comply, the court approved a new resolution to withhold pay from those who do not consent to the check.

The resolution allows the county judge and county clerk to be “authorized and directed to withhold … salaries of employees who refuse to consent to the criminal background check” and “wages owed through the close of business on Oct. 19 shall be paid.”

Gleason said that over seven years ago, he was charged with offenses, which he said were later dropped and have been expunged from his record.

“I have no convictions,” he said, adding, “This brings shame on the county and it seems I’ve been targeted – I’m the only one not getting paid.”

Justice of the Peace Johnny Burson questioned information he had seen that implied Gleason had been charged with misappropriating funds while working at a previous job in Mississippi.

“I was never convicted and it was expunged,” Gleason said.

Carolyn Jones, JP, then requested that the discussion regarding Gleason be stopped during the open meeting, since the court’s legal counsel was not in attendance. She suggested the matter be discussed during an executive session.

“Personnel issues shouldn’t be discussed except in executive sessions,” she said.

Beard said she has copies of documents in her files, that show charges against Gleason were dismissed and his files were expunged.

“I have the paperwork and a couple of JPs have asked Conor to tell his story and he did, and I’ve shown them the papers,” she said.

During the meeting when members of the court asked to see the papers showing that previous charges against Gleason had been dismissed and were expunged from his record, Beard said the papers are in her office.

“I’d like to submit a claim” to pay Gleason for 130 hours of work, Beard said. “He’s an asset to my office and nothing going on in my office is illegal. People are digging for stuff and I’m aware there are investigations regarding my office. No wrongdoing is going on in my office. I want Conor paid today.”

“If he turns in the background information, we can give him the back pay,” Jones replied.

Loftin said other county employees have all completed background checks and complied with the new ordinance.

“After 19 years, I’ve never seen this in Union County. I’m fed up with this,” said Cecil Polk, justice of the peace.

Beard also asked that a committee be named to review the background checks and Loftin said that justices of the peace Polk and Justin Hendrix have volunteered to serve on the committee. The county judge will also serve on the committee, along with Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts.

Loftin said the committee will review the checks and then discuss the background reports with elected officials in each office. Background checks received by the county are “under lock and key – in the vault,” he said.

After the meeting, Gleason reached out to the News-Times and provided a statement saying he and Beard are “disappointed that the quorum court did not address the fact that they did not comply with their ordinance and resolution.”

“I came before them to get their feedback and they deflected the question to a later date when we can have an executive session,” Gleason said. “In the meantime, I still will be unpaid. The only county employee to be unpaid. I have agreed to turn in my background check to the committee that was apparently just formed today, which I argued should have been formed before the ordinance and resolution were even passed.”

In other business Thursday, members of the quorum court also approved a bonus to be issued “before Thanksgiving,” Loftin said. Full-time employees who have been working for the county for one to two years will receive $200; from two to five years, $500; from 5 to 10 years, $750 and over 10 years, $1,000.

Janice McIntyre can be reached at 862-8611 or jmcintyre@eldoradonews.com.

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