Former Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Director Talks About Settling Lawsuit Over Job

FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. (KFSM) — The former Director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, Ivey Owen, has settled a lawsuit out of court after suing to get his job back.

Owen held the position for 12 years and was heavily involved in millions of dollars of development at Chaffee Crossing.

"It was my responsibility to get the rest of this seven thousand acres developed," Owen told 5NEWS.

Owen helped shape what Chaffee Crossing is now; subdivisions lining every corner, a medical college growing by the day and an evolving Interstate 49. It was his passion and something he put a lot of hard work into.

"So I had a vision of what this ought to look like. And then when I put my staff together, back in 2008 and 2009, I told them what my vision was and they embraced that," Owen said.

Over the years as Chaffee Crossing built up over a billion dollars in capital investments and became Fort Smith's up and coming place to live, work and build a business. Owen says he kept pouring himself into making it grow.

"I put my family through a lot during that time because I was hardly ever home. So I'm glad that part's over. But I do give credit to them, especially my wife, for supporting us, me during this time," Owen said.

In February the Fort Smith Redevelopment Authority board ousted Owen from his position citing health reasons. The governing board saying Owen wasn't able to fulfill his duties as director.

"If I had been director, and we had an employee going through what I went through, I would have never recommended to the board that we terminate them while they're in the hospital," Owen said.

Owen told 5NEWS he had planned to retire at the end of 2019. After he was let go, he sued the Chaffee Redevelopment Authority to get his job back. Recently it was settled out of court, and the authority has hired a new director at $175,000 a year. That's around the same as what Owen was paid.

The board says letting Owen go was a tough decision, but it had to be done to keep the authority going and the area growing.

"We appreciated everything he did but we had to keep the organization together and moving forward. It wasn't," said Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Chairman Dean Gibson. "We worked with him for a year and he wasn't going to be able to do the job to the fulfillment to what his job description said. Other staff at FCRA did the jobs, took over, held the jobs together. It became too much. This was a tough decision. We didn't want to do it but we had to do it for the Chaffee Redevelopment Authority."

Owen says he had planned to go back to work once he was healthy again. Now he's looking into other opportunities in Fort Smith and says he's proud of everything accomplished out at Chaffee Crossing.

"So I really do want to see it succeed and do well because I'll be associated with it from now on," Owen said.

The details of the settlement have not been made public.

The new director started his job on Friday (Aug. 16) and board members say he will be fully up and running by Monday (Aug. 19).

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