Ekberg responds to report, more details are revealed

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

By Scott Loftis

CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com

Lacey Ekberg, executive director of the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission, has responded on Facebook to a report in last week’s edition of The Citizen regarding apparent discrepancies and an omission from the resume she submitted in applying for the job in 2019.

Ekberg’s comments, which encompass more than 1,300 words, are reprinted in this week's edition in their entirety.

Meanwhile, new information has been obtained regarding the position as tourist development manager in Alachua County, Fla., that was not listed on the resume that Ekberg submitted to the CAPC as an applicant for her current position.

That resume lists a total of seven jobs in five states — North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Florida and Indiana — from July 2011 to June 2018. Each is described on the resume as a “short term contract.”

As reported in last week’s Citizen, published news reports, public documents and other sources contradict the resume’s description of several of the jobs as short-term contracts. Public documents also reveal that Ekberg served for two months in Alachua County, Fla., while on a leave of absence from a position in Indiana, before being terminated from the Florida job.

During a meeting with a reporter on Jan. 14 at the CAPC office, Ekberg said “some” of the jobs listed on her resume were short-term contracts, adding that she “stopped the contracts” on other positions. Ekberg also said a “full background check” was conducted before her hiring and that CAPC commissioners “knew everything.”

Only two of the six commissioners — Susan Harman and Terry McClung — have responded to a reporter’s requests for comments on the matter. Both Harman and McClung said they never saw information from a background check and neither were aware of Ekberg’s position in Alachua County before being informed by a reporter.

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg described personal and family issues in accounting for her job changes.

From June to December 2016, Ekberg served as president of the Tarpon Springs (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce. Her resume notes that this position was a “short term contract.” A published report refers to Ekberg’s departure from the position “for personal reasons.”

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg wrote: “Tarpon Springs...accepted job. Bought house. Great fun job. Family medical arose. I gave 2 week professional resignation with reason ‘why’ it was accepted and understood. Well wishes given. I moved back to Daytona. Sold house in Tarpon. But I have bills and have to work.”

After leaving Tarpon Springs, Ekberg spent approximately 11 months as executive director of the DeLand Chamber of Commerce in DeLand, Fla., from January to November 2017. Again, Ekberg’s resume indicates she was on a “short term contract.”

A report in a local newspaper, however, quoted Ekberg as saying “I’m hoping they will keep me here for a long time.” The same newspaper reported on Ekberg’s “unexpected departure” in November 2017.

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg wrote: “So I took job in Deland in driving distance of home. Great job. Fun community. Then my mother, brother, and sister in law died unexpectantly within a few short months apart. Yes it took me to my knees. Life happens and then it doesnt. I had 2 family estates and businesses to handle. So I gave a 2 week professional resignation with reason. They accepted, understood. Well wishes.”

Ekberg’s Facebook comments say the family issues took her to Cincinnati.

“I still have to work for a living so I went across the river to Indiana for a job,” she wrote. “Great community, challenging job.”

Ekberg’s resume says she served as chief executive officer and director in the Switzerland County, Ind., tourism department from November 2017 through June 2018. The position is noted as a “short term contract.”

Meeting minutes from Switzerland County indicate she actually was in the position until June 2019. A source close to the situation in Indiana, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ekberg indicated when she accepted the position that she would like to remain in the job on a long-term basis.

In April 2018, meeting minutes from Indiana refer to Ekberg being on a leave of absence from her position there. Public documents reveal that she was beginning her work in Alachua County at the same time.

The source in Indiana said officials there were told that Ekberg had returned to Florida to care for her husband after surgery. The source said officials in Indiana were not made aware that Ekberg was working for Alachua County but discovered that fact later.

In her meeting with a reporter on Jan. 14, Ekberg said officials in Indiana were informed that she had taken the job in Alachua County. She also reiterated that she had taken the leave of absence in Indiana to care for her husband after surgery.

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg addressed her leave of absence from the job in Indiana.

“More family medical issues arose so I explained to them that I needed to go for a while,” Ekberg wrote. “They agreed to pay me 25% of my salary to continue my job off site. Which took me to Alachua County. Again I needed a job that paid more than 25% pay. I went to the County and got a job. They knew the reason I was there but were obviously more professional than to discuss.”

Ekberg’s application with Alachua County, however, does not reveal the fact that she was on a leave of absence from her job in Indiana.

Instead, where Ekberg provides details of the Indiana position under the “Work Experience” section in the application, dated Jan. 2, 2018, she lists her reason for leaving as “contract ending soon.”

Similarly, she lists “end of contract” on the Alachua County application as her reason for leaving both Tarpon Springs and DeLand.

As part of the hiring process for Alachua County, Ekberg participated in a group interview on Feb. 9, 2018. Ekberg was asked 21 questions, and written notes from six of the individuals who participated in interviewing Ekberg are included in the public record.

Five of the six noted, in describing Ekberg’s response to the question “Why are you interested in the Tourism Manager position?” some version of Ekberg’s desire to live in Florida. One interviewer wrote “settle and call home.” Another wrote “settle down with family.” The only one of the six interviewers not to note some version of Ekberg’s desire to live in Florida wrote one-word notes under each question, such as “good,” “great,” “med” and “weak.”

Nowhere in any of the interviewers’ notes is any mention of a leave of absence from Indiana or any family medical issue.

As it turned out, Ekberg’s time in Alachua County was brief. She was terminated in June 2018. In her Facebook comments, Ekberg described a mutual dislike.

“Awful community, horrible job,” she wrote. “I hated them they hated me. I was terminated peacefully as neither one of us wanted to be there. It was a long 60 days with 2 jobs and medical testing.”

According to Ekberg’s Facebook comments, she returned to Indiana after being fired from her job in Alachua County.

“Medical issues on rest and I went back to Indiana as promised,” Ekberg wrote. “I finished the task list as requested. Then sat and did nothing for 30 days. After discussion with several people there I gave my resignation 2 weeks professionally. But also gave reason that I was not going to sit idly accepting a paycheck for nothing. The county couldnt afford to pay for a director and I suggested they not replace the position as it was not needed. They agreed with my professional advice and did not replace.”

Ekberg was selected from an initial pool of more than 200 candidates to replace former CAPC director Mike Maloney, who resigned earlier in 2019 after an eight-year tenure.

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg repeated her statement that a full background was conducted.

“Full background check, past employers called and all clear,” she wrote.

In August 2019, shortly before Ekberg began work in Eureka Springs, the Carroll County News and the Lovely County Citizen, sister newspapers produced by Carroll County Newspapers Inc., reported that Ekberg had twice filed for personal bankruptcy protection.

“Thats a whole different story,” Ekberg wrote about the bankruptcies in her Facebook comments. “Stop by and I will explain child molestation, divorce and huge medical bills. Life happens.”

The report on Ekberg’s bankruptcies was first published in the Carroll County News on Aug. 9, 2019. Ekberg’s first day at work in Eureka Springs was Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Four days later, on Aug. 19, Ekberg canceled all of the CAPC’s advertising with Carroll County Newspapers.

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg wrote: “I was offered a suggestion of how to rectify this situation. I guess I can buy advertising with a local newspaper and the trash stories might stop. Great sales pitch.”

Ekberg was asked via email Tuesday if she could elaborate on who offered such a suggestion or provide documentation of it. She responded Wednesday morning, referring “all further correspondence with the CAPC,” to chairwoman Carol Wright, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment regarding Ekberg.

CAPC commissioner James DeVito, a former Eureka Springs alderman who has declined to comment to a reporter about Ekberg, suggested on Facebook that the reporting on Ekberg’s background was connected to her decision to withdraw advertising from Carroll County Newspapers publications.

“Lacey came in and cut out ads in the Citizen and did away with the Chamber publication response piece,” DeVito wrote in a Facebook comment responding to another person’s post. “Like the State who is now placing the Fun Guide in all the (tourist information centers) across the state, she is using the Independent’s Fun Guide as the CAPC response piece. Their (sic) is a reason why a number of forces behind the scenes are pushing the Citizen to dig up something. Hardly a headline article but then again it’s the Citizen.”

In her Facebook comments, Ekberg expressed a belief that her position with the CAPC might be in jeopardy.

“I might lose my job over this interview and response, and I will be sad,” Ekberg wrote. “But life happens and you should be happy and stop judging with no ‘why’. We are only human.”

The CAPC’s regular monthly meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Auditorium. The agenda indicates there will be an executive session.

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act outlines specific guidelines for public bodies meeting in executive session.

“(E)xecutive sessions will be permitted only for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining, or resignation of any public officer or employee,” the act says, with the only exception being for matters related to the security of a public water system or utility system. “The specific purpose of the executive session shall be announced in public before going into executive session.”

Decisions reached in executive session must be ratified by vote in public.

“No resolution, ordinance, rule, contract, regulation, or motion considered or arrived at in executive session will be legal unless, following the executive session, the public body reconvenes in public session and presents and votes on the resolution, ordinance, rule, contract, regulation, or motion,” the act says.

Comments
View 7 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • I find it hysterically funny that Scott is going after the bankruptcy “issue” when he’s declared it twice...

    -- Posted by frogg13 on Thu, Jan 23, 2020, at 9:49 AM
  • Whenever you point a finger at someone, you’ve got 4 pointing back at you. I hate the airing of personal info in public as the end result is the destruction of lives. Neither party is right at this point. I respect Mr. Scott’s reporting but it’s effect will destroy Ms. Lacey, right or wrong, but he has exposed something more important and that is how town officials are not performing due diligence during the hiring process. That’s my concern.

    -- Posted by Saints4me on Thu, Jan 23, 2020, at 10:13 PM
  • The lack of due diligence by the commission is certainly unprofessional and bad enough. I'm also curious about the commission oversight. It's reported that, at the very least, both city council CAPC representatives were unaware of any of these controversial decisions regarding background checks, financial/budget directions, etc. Were they absent at the meetings? Were they not paying attention? Or rather, with all the smokescreen rancor, were they intentionally left out to avoid oversight and scrutiny on these very controversial decisions? That would be interesting to know and provide the ultimate irony because, if true, it will likely be out of the city's hands eventually anyway.

    -- Posted by outofthebox on Fri, Jan 24, 2020, at 10:59 AM
  • agree

    -- Posted by Saints4me on Fri, Jan 24, 2020, at 8:57 PM
  • Please be sure that what’s being reported is actually the truth & not a private scam for friends...

    Thorough & proper investigation was done & private family life is/was not part of a job review.

    -- Posted by frogg13 on Sun, Jan 26, 2020, at 12:00 PM
  • Based on the comments in the paper and social media, it appears there's significant animosity that exists between at least a couple of commission members and the newspaper which is also shared by some in the community. The majority of businesses that collect the taxes spent by the CAPC could probably care less about this animosity than they do about absolute assurances that these dollars are spent appropriately and within legal guidelines and not based on personal grievances. We have a multi-member commission for a reason. If funds are ever distributed or held for punitive or goodwill reasons, that would be wrong.  If funds are ever distributed or held and the decisions are made outside the process and knowledge of all commissioners because of personal grievances, that would be much worse. Unfortunately, due to the caustic back and forth between the parties, we can only hypothesize based on what can assume and what we know about the parties. It may be the only viable solution is for the collectors to seek clarification through an objective third party legal authority.  That way the reputation of the CAPC can be completely cleared or, worse case, the necessary corrective measures can be administered.  Otherwise, we just keep embarrassing ourselves.

    -- Posted by outofthebox on Mon, Jan 27, 2020, at 7:06 PM
  • outofthebox, you wrote about "clarification through an objective third party legal authority." Surely, you must be joking.

    CAPC chair Carol Wright doesn't give a flip about following the law, she has proven that by breaking the law again and again. Wright's unvetted resume-falsifying hire Ekberg has proven that she is an incompetent hack.

    No one in city government cares to follow the law, they will only do it if compelled to do so. No further "clarification" is needed.

    outofthebox, maybe you should get back in the box, because you seem quite naive about how poorly government works in practice.

    -- Posted by EurekaFan on Tue, Jan 28, 2020, at 3:28 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: