Emails provide more details on CAPC executive session
By Scott Loftis
When the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission went into executive session during its Jan. 22 meeting, chairwoman Carol Wright said the purpose of the executive session was to discuss “a personnel issue.”
Copies of email correspondence obtained by the Citizen, however, indicate Wright actually intended for the executive session to focus on crafting a response to the newspaper’s reporting on the background of CAPC executive director Lacey Ekberg.
The Citizen reported on Jan. 16 that Ekberg’s resume described several positions as “short-term contracts” despite public documents and published reports indicating that at least three of the positions actually were intended to be permanent jobs. The Jan. 16 report also revealed that Ekberg’s resume did not mention a position she held for approximately two months in 2018 in Alachua County, Fla. — while on a leave of absence from a similar position in Switzerland County, Ind. — before being fired.
The same day that the Citizen’s report was published, Wright emailed Rick Bright, the CAPC’s finance director, and asked him to “put a Special Session” on the agenda for the Jan. 22 meeting.
“I need to clear the air about our due diligence (1) background check(s) (2) reference checks (which I did) (3) job performance (perfect/not in question),” Wright wrote in the email. “If asked it is about personnel issues (plural).”
On Jan. 22, Wright emailed Bright again to discuss her plans for the executive session.
“I’m planning to help the Commission shape a response(s) at our Special Meeting,” Wright wrote. “Please edit/add/subtract from the various statements we might make. Perhaps each individual Commissioner can make a part of the overall statement as our response to the results of our meeting and/or our signing off statements.
“Director of the Eureka Springs City Advertising & Promotions Commission, Lacey Ekberg ,has been employed for 5 months and one week, is performing well towards CAPC goals and is following our marketing plan towards more success by the end of her first year and into the future.
“Employees at the CAPC are re-energized and enjoying their jobs.
“Lacey Ekberg does not handle money or financial supervision of contracts for the CAPC. Rick Bright is legally responsible for financial oversight.
“Lacey Ekberg has made tough decisions to meet and exceed financial and marketing goals for the betterment of the CAPC and its Mission. The Commission hired Ms. Ekberg mainly because of her skill and reputation to quickly focus on financial and marketing weaknesses and turn around agencies for which she has worked.
“Lacey Ekberg passed a government background check. Lacey Ekberg's references, who were all called, gave her rave reviews. All Commissioners were advised of the results of the background check AND the references before Ms. Ekberg was hired. The background check has been in CAPC files prior to Ms. Ekberg's hiring.
“Lacey Ekberg has the full support of the CAPC Commission.
“Ms. Ekberg lives close to work and is involved in the community, as requested during her hiring process.
“The Commission suggests asking these questions of those who seem to have motives beyond Ms. Ekberg's job performance (which has NOT been called into question):
“1. What might be a financial reason for a person(s) to attack Ms. Ekberg?
“2. Who in power might be grinding an OLD AX towards the CAPC at Ms. Ekberg's expense?
“3. Who instigated this persecution towards Ms. Ekberg and which might be their motivation?
Bright replied: “Well done! Looks good to me.”
The Citizen obtained copies of the email correspondence after requesting the public records in accordance with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
The FOIA 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.
At the Jan. 22 meeting, a reporter questioned whether Wright’s statement that the commission would be going into executive session to discuss “a personnel issue” satisfied the FOIA’s requirement that a specific reason be cited. Wright responded: “That’s the reason I’m giving you.”
The commission returned from the executive session after approximately 25 minutes, with Wright announcing that no action was taken.
John Tull, a Little Rock attorney and noted FOIA expert who represents the Arkansas Press Association, said last week that the Jan. 22 executive session was “clearly a violation.”
Carroll County Newspapers, which publishes the Citizen and the Carroll County News, contacted prosecuting attorney Tony Rogers last week to initiate a complaint against the CAPC regarding the executive session.
Wright was scheduled to meet with a reporter Tuesday afternoon to discuss the executive session and several other issues related to Ekberg’s hiring. After requesting and being provided Monday afternoon with an outline of the topics to be discussed, Wright canceled the meeting Tuesday morning via email, writing that she was “unwell and unable to meet today.”