The Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management will be short by three employees at the end of the month unless staff is added.
Three employees — OEM Chief Deputy Tyler Lachowsky, Mary Johnson and Julie Woodward — have submitted their resignations.
Woodward, who transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office, resigned effective Nov. 17, 2017.
Johnson and Lachowsky each submitted resignation letters last week; Johnson’s last day will be Tuesday and Lachowsky’s last day will be Jan. 31.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” Lachowsky wrote in his resignation letter, which the Log Cabin Democrat obtained through a Freedom of Information request. “I have enjoyed working for Faulkner County and appreciate the opportunities for growth I have been provided.”
Lachowsky was promoted to chief deputy in 2016 with a salary of $40,200.
Johnson is one of two employees — Woodward is the other — who filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 19, 2017, against OEM Director Shelia Bellott, County Judge Jim Baker, County Administrator Tom Anderson and Faulkner County stemming from a sexual harassment complaint against Bellott.
The initial investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Bellott ensued after four OEM employees contacted Deputy County Attorney Whitney Doolittle about inappropriate talk and incidents involving Bellott.
Doolittle and County Attorney David Hogue conducted a three-week investigation before presenting their findings to Baker, who had to decide what disciplinary action to take. Baker was advised to fire Bellott but instead transferred her physical office away from the four employees and directed her not to speak with OEM employees except Lachowsky and not to talk about anything sexual at work, a move that, according to the federal complaint, did not relieve tensions at the office.
“The arrangement ... does not relieve the hostile work environment,” the complaint reads. “Defendant Bellott, with the apparent authority of Defendants Anderson and Baker, has continued to place tedious and harassing requirements on the OEM employees, including Julie and Mary. Such behavior on the part of all Defendants demonstrate[s] unwelcome harassment and unprofessional conduct, and reckless conduct from which malice may be inferred.”
County officials said they acted reasonably to resolve the issue.
Attorneys with the Rainwater, Holt and Sexton law firm represent the defendants and submitted an answer to the complaint on Nov. 13 stating: “Separate Faulkner County Defendants exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior and/or the Plaintiffs unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.”
Hogue said the job openings would be posted on the Workforce Services website unless the county hires part-time or temporary help or transfers/promotes existing employees, per Faulkner County policy.
The 2018 OEM budget “still provides for Shelia plus four [employees],” Hogue said.
As of press time Friday, Bellott was still the OEM director.
“Shelia is still working in an office in the courthouse block while the remaining three employees are at the office on Acklin Gap Road,” Hogue said.