Administrator of jail fired

While he will not be charged with a crime, Capt. Terry Rea’s tenure as jail administrator for the Crawford County Detention Center is finished. Quorum court budget committee members unanimously approved a $5,688 lump-sum payout to Rea for accrued holiday and vacation time during Monday night’s meeting.

Later, during a personnel committee meeting, justices of the peace also approved the hiring of four new deputies for the sheriff’s department. The positions must now be approved during the quorum court’s regular meeting later this month.

Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune sent an e-mail to the Press-Argus Courier Tuesday afternoon announcing that materials from an Arkansas State Police investigation into possible sexual misconduct by Rea had been turned over to him for examination.

After reviewing the reports, I am declining to file any charges against Terry Rea,” the e-mail states. “I do not believe that I could meet the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt on charges filed against Terry Rea. I believe that this matter may be more appropriately pursued in a civil proceeding rather than a criminal proceeding.”

State police launched the investigation into Rea in February, following an allegation by a former female employee. On Monday morning, Chief Deputy Ron Brown said Rea’s employment was terminated March 20.

Brown said Rea was terminated for “violation of policy, departmental policy,” but declined to elaborate.

When reached on his mobile phone Tuesday afternoon, Brown said he was unaware of McCune’s decision and had not seen the e-mail.

An attempt to reach Sheriff Mike Allen by phone Tuesday afternoon was unsuccessful.

After Monday night’s meeting, Allen said Jeff Marvin, a reserve sheriff’s deputy, had been appointed as Rea’s permanent replacement for the jail administrator position. He said Marvin has “several years” experience in law enforcement, including service as a reserve officer for four area agencies, among them the Alma and Mulberry police departments. He’s also served as a member of the county SWAT team, Allen said.

Rea had been involved in law enforcement for 24 years, according to Allen, who declined comment on the investigation Monday night.

On Tuesday, Corey Mendenhall, a special agent with the state police who investigated Rea, said he turned his report in to McCune on Monday but had not yet seen McCune’s statement announcing his decision. He declined to comment on the prosecuting attorney’s decision.

At the start of Monday’s personnel committee meeting, Allen initially requested funding to hire four deputies and three detention officers, spurring debate among the JPs over just how many new employees could be hired without severely depleting the county general fund for the rest of the year.

The cost of hiring seven new employees, plus uniforms, equipment and four squad cars would have amounted to $327,099 for the rest of 2008. Allen said new employees were necessary to keep the sheriff’s office running smoothy.

“I can’t have pro-active law enforcement with the numbers we have now,” Allen said.

JP Sharon Partain said that compared to other Arkansas counties with comparable populations, Crawford County is “very much understaffed.”

However, JP Elaina Damante said if the committee approved the money, the county general fund would have only $140,000 remaining for the rest of the year. County Judge John Hall also reminded the JPs to be careful with spending, noting the ever-increasing cost of fuel.

“Anything we can get would be appreciated,” Allen told the committee. “. … This (request) is a bare minimum.”

Damante said she agreed that the sheriff’s office needed additional help, but didn’t think the quorum court had enough money to grant the sheriff seven new employees. “If this had to be reduced, what would be Plan B?” she asked.

Allen said that getting deputies hired would take priority over detention officers. After a little more discussion, justices voted to hire four new deputies at a total cost of $267,877 for a year, with funding for two positions to be taken from county general funds and funding for the other two taken from the county’s public safety money. That comes to a cost of about $233,000 for the rest of 2008 if all four deputies are hired in April.

Public safety funds are generated from sales tax revenue, which Hall warned could decline like the rest of the economy.

However, Partain noted that Crawford County already depends on sales tax revenues to pay some salaries, and if those go down, “We’re all going down on the same boat.”

The vote was 11-0, with JPs Don Jenkins and Delia Friddle absent. If approved at the regular quorum court meeting, the hires will be the first for the sheriff’s office in eight years. Allen said three deputies will likely be assigned to patrol while the fourth will work in the criminal investigations division.

In a phone interview Tuesday morning, Hall emphasized his support for the sheriff’s office but said he would prefer the quorum court allow for the hiring of two deputies rather than four, with money for one position coming out of the general revenue fund and the other out of public safety. He said more employees could possibly be hired next year, depending on the county’s financial situation.

“I am going to relate that to the quorum court; they can take it for whatever it’s worth,” Hall said. “. …That’s a conservative way to look at it, but we need to be conservative with what money we’ve got.”


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