Arkansas panel fires Department of Community Correction head
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Board of Corrections unanimously voted to fire the state’s parole and probation director Sheila Sharp Thursday, and she immediately said that she believes it was because Gov. Asa Hutchinson was unhappy with her efforts to push for more resources for the agency.
In a public vote following a two hour, closed-door executive session, the board terminated Sharp, who has headed the agency since 2013. The board did not explain its reason for firing Sharp.
Immediately after her official termination, Sharp distributed documents in which she said she was terminated for, among other possible reasons, not following the proper guidelines when submitting a budget request. She said she requested an additional 99 parole officers, of which the Board approved 30, and which “upset” Hutchinson. She alleged that on July 16, she met with the Governor where he “expressed displeasure” that she had “ignored his instructions regarding the budget submission” by requesting additional personnel and funding. She said that Hutchinson had instructed agencies not to do without first getting approval from the Department of Finance and Administration.
Sharp said Hutchinson told her he could not fire her, because that decision can only be made by the board, but that he did want “a change in leadership.”
Sharp alleges that the board’s chair, Benny Magness, had approved the budget requests in a June 5 email, saying it “looks good.” Then, after meeting with the state’s finance department July 10, Sharp said he would tell the board the requests were “not final.” Sharp said the board met the following day and did not discuss the budget requests. It is not clear whether Sharp got the board or the finance department’s ultimate approval when she submitted her final budget.
In a statement, Hutchinson said he supported Sharp’s termination.
Sharp claims that after she met with Hutchinson, Magness told her that the board wanted to discuss “issues” with her and that “the Board action didn’t have anything to do with the governor’s desire to ‘go in a different direction.’”
Between July 2017 and March 2018, Sharp received a “Role Model” rating, according to a performance evaluation Sharp provided. It includes positive reviews such as “takes responsibility for decisions and does not shift blame on others” and “demonstrates a dedication to the agency’s mission, job goals and tasks.”
Sharp succeeded David Eberhard, who retired amid investigations into the department’s handling of an eight-time parole absconder who was arrested and charged with kidnapping and capital murder in Little Rock.
After terminating Sharp, the board unanimously voted to appoint former Chief Deputy Director Kevin Murphy as interim director.
The department oversees parolees and people on probation, and coordinates transition and reentry for offenders.