Justice of the Peace Phil Stowers, a Republican from Maumelle, has asked for a Quorum Court agenda item to discuss recent news about the Pulaski sheriff’s office. the county body meets Tuesday night.

It’s not clear at the moment if the subject will come up tomorrow or be delayed until an agenda meeting in September.

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Stowers’ letter with the request referred to KARK’s recent report on $1.2 million in unpaid bills at the sheriff’s office and also a recent review of staffing, which indicates a high number of vacancies. It found:

107 of the sheriff’s 502 budgeted positions are unfilled.

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In the jail, there are 83 vacant positions, including 61 detention officers and six sergeants.

In enforcement, there are 14 deputy, four sergeant and one dispatcher positions vacant.

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The vacancies at the start of the 2020 fiscal year were 300 percent higher than the previous three years, according to the staff report. Sheriff Eric Higgins took office in January 2019.

To date, Higgins has declined comment on the unpaid bills and staffing. In requesting a discussion, Stowers wrote to the Quorum Court administrator:

If Sheriff Higgins is unable or unwilling to attend, I believe this is still a worthwhile and timely discussion for the Quorum Court to have as an Item of Discussion during our 8/25 meeting.  The taxpayers of Pulaski County are looking to us as the legislative body of the county for leadership regarding these matters and alarming numbers.

The sheriff is an independent official, though the Quorum Court appropriates money for his operations. But JP Judy Green also commented in an email this morning that she favored the discussion.

I am glad that you are doing this; I think you guys are spot on target. Even though he’s an elected official, It’s time we question a lot of his actions, because we are going to have to pay for them in the end.