Feb. 25 update: Grievance hearing has been scheduled for Mar. 7, Shock says.

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Officials with the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office have reported the loss of nearly $30,000 to its budget for four deputies not rehired to their positions, January, following the swearing-in of new sheriff Andy Shock. And with no date set for a grievance hearing, the amount continues to increase daily.

Shock said in January, following his department overhaul, that no one was fired from the department, but six employees were not re-hired to their positions. Those employees were notified of their non-selection via hand-delivered letters. Some recipients had served decades with the department.

Four of those employees requested a grievance hearing, though county officials have yet to set a date.

As of Friday, the employees had drawn $26,340.91 in salaries and benefits.

Shock is the official defendant in the case with the hearing to be heard by County Judge Allen Dodson and a grievance board comprised of five members of the quorum court. At the hearing, the board and county judge must decide whether the deputies were wrongfully relieved of their responsibilities with FCSO. Michael Rainwater, a Little Rock attorney retained by the county, will represent Shock in proceedings; county employees are responsible for their own legal representation at the hearing.

Shock said he has been in constant contact with Dodson since his appointment to the judgeship Jan. 31, and had also prompted former County Judge Preston Scroggin to set a date.

"(The employees) only had so many days to file a grievance, and on those forms they’ve got to state why they are filing," Shock said. "They waited until the last day to file and didn’t file a reason. That right there could have made the request null and void, but it didn’t."

Nearly two months later, Shock said he is still waiting on a date, though he isn’t sure why. Any questions of legal liability were addressed before any action was taken against the employees, Shock said.

Salaries for those no longer contracted to work are being paid from the department’s 2013 budget. The department is working on a "tight budget," Shock said, and he hopes to use "every penny to the best of his ability."

"We have only allocated ‘x’ amount of dollars in our budget for salaries, so not only are we paying for people that don’t already work here, it’s coming out of the pool for people who do work here," Shock said.

"I have appreciated the sheriff’s patience," Dodson said Friday, noting the delay in scheduling has been due in part to the recent vacancy of the position of county judge, and also to legal questions that have "required some research."

"We didn’t want to create any individual cause of action," Dodson said. "We don’t want to deny anyone a hearing if they are entitled to one and we have been working to determine whether procedures were followed."

Dodson offered that should the department find themselves behind on budget, he was prepared to offer to help offset the cost.

But Shock said saving money is a top priority. "I don’t want to be in a position to ask for more money and we will do everything we can to prevent from doing that," Shock said. "These four employees cost the county roughly $160,000 a year. The further this rocks on, the more money we are out."

Dodson said Friday he hopes to schedule a date by Thursday this week, or no later than a week from Thursday.

(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by e-mail at megan.reynolds@thecabin.net. To comment on this story and others, visit www.thecabin.net.)