Conflicting accounts: Documents, news reports contradict CAPC director’s resume

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Lacey Ekberg

By Scott Loftis

CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com

Lacey Ekberg’s resume lists a total of seven jobs from July 2011 to June 2018, with notations that each was a “short-term contract.”

A review of news reports and other documents, along with interviews with people familiar with Ekberg’s history, paint an altogether different story — one that includes promises of long-term commitment followed by abrupt departures and even one short-lived job not mentioned on Ekberg’s resume.

Ekberg was hired as executive director of the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission on July 10, 2019, and began work on Aug. 15. She was selected from an initial pool of more than 200 applicants. Her annual salary is $75,000.

In a letter to the CAPC that was included with her resume, Ekberg wrote: “I am not wishing to continue with short term contracts but looking for a long term commitment in a community we love.”

According to the resume that Ekberg submitted to the CAPC, she worked as chief executive officer and director in the Switzerland County, Ind., tourism department from November 2017 through June 2018. While that is technically true, it apparently wasn’t that simple.

Fired in Florida

According to official minutes from an April 16, 2018, meeting of the Switzerland County tourism advisory board, board members were told that Ekberg was on a leave of absence that “will include her working off-site and managing current responsibilities. She plans to return as soon as she can.”

The same day, however, Ekberg was actually starting work as tourist development manager for Alachua County, Fla. She held that position for a little more than two months before being fired.

“You have failed to complete your probationary period with the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners,” assistant county manager Gina Peebles wrote in a June 19 letter to Ekberg. “In accordance with Alachua County Policy 4-4.3, ‘An employee in an initial probationary period or initial trainee status may be separated from employment at any time upon approval by the department director. The employee shall not have the right to appeal the dismissal.’

“Therefore, I am terminating your employment effective Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at 5 p.m.”

Mark Sexton, community and legislative affairs director for Alachua County, provided a copy of the termination letter to Carroll County Newspapers.

He confirmed that Ekberg started work there on April 16, 2018 — the same day her leave of absence was being discussed in Indiana.

“She was with us for about two months,” Sexton said in a telephone interview. “We decided to separate from her during her probation period.”

Sexton declined to share any more specific details regarding Ekberg’s termination from the Alachua County job.

That job is not listed on the resume that Ekberg provided to the CAPC.

In Indiana, a source with knowledge of the situation said Ekberg did not tell officials there she had taken the job in Alachua County.

“She’d gone down to Florida,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressing a fear of reprisal by Ekberg. “We were told that her husband had had surgery but we found out later that she’d taken another job.”

While on her leave of absence, Ekberg was paid as a subcontractor for telephone consultations.

“She was getting some money,” the source said.

‘A line of …’

The Indiana source said that when Ekberg initially accepted the position there in November 2017 she expressed an eagerness to settle down in the area and become a part of the community.

The source described those statements by Ekberg as “a line of …,” not completing the sentence.

“It was all fabrication,” the source said.

In December 2018, the Suwanee (Fla.) Democrat reported that Ekberg withdrew from consideration to become that county’s economic development director “when she was unable to find a flight due to weather.”

The newspaper reported that Ekberg “currently is the executive director of the Switzerland County Tourism in Vevay, Ind.,” although her resume indicates she had left that position six months earlier.

‘If they’ll keep me’

Before beginning work in Indiana, according to Ekberg’s resume, she 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.”

According to a story in the Jan. 12-15, 2017, issue of the West Volusia Beacon, however, Ekberg indicated she planned to be in DeLand for the long term.

“Despite her nomadic past, Ekberg is planning to stay in DeLand for quite a while,” the story said. “ ‘If they’ll keep me,’ she said. ‘I’m hoping they will keep me here for a long time.’ ”

Instead, Ekberg was apparently looking for other employment eight months later. According to an Aug. 23, 2017, report in the Citrus County Chronicle in Crystal River, Fla., Ekberg was among 19 applicants to become that county’s Visitors Bureau director.

When she ultimately left DeLand, the West Volusia newspaper described Ekberg’s “sudden departure,” reporting on Nov. 30, 2017, that an interim director “takes over after the unexpected departure of former executive director Lacey Ekberg, who resigned at the end of October so she could focus on family business issues out of state spawned by several deaths in her family.”

That story was printed 22 days after a meeting of the Switzerland County Council in Indiana. Official minutes from that Nov. 8 meeting refer to Ekberg as the new director of the county’s tourism department.

Another abrupt departure

Before working in DeLand, Ekberg was president of the Tarpon Springs (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce from June to December 2016. Her resume notes that this position also was a “short term contract.”

The Suncoast News in Port Richey, Fla. reported on Jan. 18, 2017, that Ekberg had left her job with the Tarpon Springs chamber “for personal reasons.”

The Suncoast News story quotes Leslie DiPaci, chairman of the Tarpon Springs chamber’s board of directors, who told the newspaper that she received an email from Ekberg in early December 2017 announcing her decision to leave the chamber for personal reasons.

“She really didn’t want to leave,” the story quoted DiPaci as saying.

Bankruptcies

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.

Ekberg confirmed that she declared bankruptcy in 1995 and 2006, both times in Idaho. She said there was “a divorce situation” involved but declined to elaborate or say which bankruptcy she was referring to.

Ekberg said the CAPC was “made very aware” of the bankruptcies during the hiring process, but two members of the commission later said they did not know about the bankruptcies before being informed by a reporter.

At the time, Ekberg said the bankruptcies should not be a cause for concern about her ability to serve as the chief executive of an organization with an annual budget of more than $1.5 million, funded almost entirely by tax dollars.

Ekberg’s response

Ekberg was provided with copies of documents and links to news reports and other sources cited in this story on Monday. During a meeting Tuesday morning at the CAPC office, Ekberg objected to the review of her work history.

“I find it appalling and kind of insulting to the commissioners who hired me,” she said.

Asked if all the jobs listed on her resume as short-term contracts actually were, she replied: “Some of them were. Some of them, I stopped the contracts.”

Ekberg said she did not have copies of the contracts.

“You can’t even ask me that,” she said.

Ekberg said the CAPC commissioners were fully aware of her history.

“The commissioners knew everything,” she said. “They went through due diligence. They did a full background check.”

Asked why she didn’t list the Alachua County job on her resume, Ekberg said: “Because I was there for 60 days. I didn’t like it. They didn’t like me. It was 60 days.”

She declined to say more about her time in Alachua County, although she said she did take the job while her husband was recovering from surgery. She also said some people in Indiana, where she was on a leave of absence at the time, were aware she was working in Florida.

“It depends on who you’re asking,” she said. “The minions didn’t know, but the people that I talked to knew.”

She also cited “family medical issues” for her move from DeLand, Fla., to Indiana but declined to be more specific.

Ekberg accused Carroll County Newspapers of deliberately attempting to cause controversy in the county.

“I don’t get paid p**s to sit behind a keyboard and ooze crap,” she said.

Regarding the previous story on her personal bankruptcies, Ekberg said: “You did a s**t story on me. You tried to corn-hole me.”

Asked if the bankruptcy story was inaccurate, Ekberg said it was. Asked to elaborate on the alleged inaccuracies, she could not provide any specifics.

She added that the community “rallied” behind her after that story was published.

“I got so many flowers and cards from people in the community who supported me,” she said.

She also accused a reporter of “stalking” her.

“This obsession with me is really kind of creepy,” she said.

Lacey Ekberg Timeline

Jan. 3, 2017

Ekberg goes to work as executive director of DeLand (Fla.) Area Chamber of Commerce and Orange City Alliance, telling a local newspaper: “I’m hoping they will keep me here for a long time.”

Jan. 18, 2017

The Suncoast News in Port Richey, Fla. reports that Ekberg has left her job as president of Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce “for personal reasons.”

August 23, 2017

The Citrus County Chronicle in Crystal River, Fla., reports that Ekberg was among 19 applicants to become that county’s Visitors Bureau director.

Nov. 8, 2017

At a meeting of the Switzerland County Council in Indiana, it is announced that Ekberg will be the county’s new tourism director.

Nov. 30, 2017

The West Volusia Beacon reports on Ekberg’s “unexpected departure” from the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce, writing that she “resigned at the end of October so she could focus on family business issues out of state spawned by several deaths in her family.”

April 16, 2018

At a meeting of the Switzerland County, Ind., tourism advisory board, it is announced that Ekberg is on a leave of absence but will continue “working off-site.” The same day, Ekberg begins work as as tourist development manager for Alachua County, Fla.

June 19, 2018

Ekberg is fired from her job in Alachua County, Fla.

Dec. 14, 2018

The Suwanee (Fla.) Democrat reports that Ekberg has withdrawn from an interview to become a county economic development director in Suwanee, Fla. because she couldn’t find a flight because of weather. The story says Ekberg “currently is the executive director of the Switzerland County Tourism in Vevay, Ind.,” although her resume indicates she left that position six months earlier.

Aug. 15, 2019

Ekberg begins work as executive director of the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission.

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  • Excellent job reporting this controversial topic.

    -- Posted by Saints4me on Wed, Jan 15, 2020, at 8:17 PM
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