Benton Co. Sheriff’s Office Employees File Lawsuit Against Sheriff
BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) — Three Benton County Sheriff’s Office employees are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday (march 17) against Benton County Sheriff Kelley Cradduck after a grievance committee denied to hear their case earlier this week.
According to the lawsuit, Cradduck violated the Civil Rights Act of 1871, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, and the Arkansas Whistle Blower Act. It also claims Cradduck defamed Robin Holt, Megan Rutledge and Dianna Goodwin.
The lawsuit states Sheriff Kelley Cradduck continues to retaliate against those three employees because they alerted their superiors to what they believed were illegal actions taken by the sheriff and then cooperated with the investigation into the alleged conduct.
The lawsuit lists the following “retaliatory and harassing actions” by the sheriff:
- threatening and antagonizing the employees;
- removing job benefits;
- removing essential job duties and functions;
- referring to the employees as a clique that causes drama;
- making rude and derogatory remarks to the employees and about the employees;
- stating the employees are on a list of people who will be terminated following the March 1 primary election;
- initiating baseless internal investigations targeting the employees;
- instructing other employees to file complaints against certain coworkers;
- reprimanding and publicly questioning the employees’ integrity;
- hanging a blanket over the window to Goodwin’s office, which she shares with Cradduck’s office;
- monitoring the employees’ actions remotely from his home using county surveillance cameras;
- interrogating certain employees about whether they were planning to vote for him or his opponents in the March 1 primary election;
- creating an environment where other employees have to choose between the sheriff and their coworkers.
Deputy Holt had filed two other grievances against Cradduck in the past.
The first, which was filed in October 2015, alleged she had been demoted because she refused the sheriff’s order to backdate another employee’s start date to two weeks prior to his actual start date. Another Benton County deputy filed a similar grievance the following day. In November 2015, the Benton County Grievance Committee ruled in favor of Holt and the other deputy and instructed Cradduck to reinstate them to their prior positions.
Rutledge and Goodwin both attended the grievance hearing, according to the lawsuit.
Holt filed another grievance against the sheriff in January stating he was harassing her for the same reasons listed in the lawsuit, but the grievance committee decided not to hold hearing on the matter.
The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and restitution that includes:
- restoration of the employees’ personnel records;
- damages available under federal and state law in an amount yet to be determined;
- compensatory damages;
- injunctive relief to keep Cradduck from further violations of federal and state laws;
- punitive damages;
- attorneys’ fees and costs;
- prejudgement and post-judgement interest.
To read the lawsuit in full, click here.
On Jan. 19, Cradduck was arrested and booked into the Benton County Jail on suspicion of felony tempering with public record and misdemeanor tampering. The sheriff pleaded not guilty to those charges Feb. 22 and his next court date is scheduled for March 31.
Cradduck was seeking a third term as sheriff, but lost the Republican nomination in the March 1 primary election.