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Ruling on center housing queried

Development facility chief forced out is still living on grounds

By Mary Hargrove

This article was published July 16, 2002 at 5:02 a.m.

A decision to allow former superintendent Bob Clark to live on the Conway Human Development Center campus until Aug. 30 will be examined this week by a legislative personnel committee.

Clark resigned his job June 30, but is living in a house on the center grounds for another seven weeks.

Clark, who resigned under pressure, asked to be allowed to stay in the house until a home he is building in Centerville is completed. He had been superintendent for 22 years and an employee for 33 years.

The request by Clark was part of termination negotiations with the Developmental Disabilities Services Board and the state Department of Human Services. Both entities oversee the state's human development centers. "One of the things Bob requested of DDS board Chairman Ron Carmack is that he be able to remain in his house," said Human Services Deputy Director John Selig. "Kurt Knickrehm [Human Services director] and I were OK with it." Clark is considered to be on leave.

"We have the option of giving him a lump-sum payment for sick leave and vacation or letting him stay in the house and on the payroll so he can get health insurance and benefits," Selig said. "He is not running anything at the center. He has cleared out of his office."

Human Services financial officers were consulting with their attorneys on whether they could release the dollar amount of benefits that Clark has accrued.

State Sen. Percy Malone, DArkadelphia, is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees human development centers.

He also is part of a legislative personnel committee that meets monthly to review issues relating to state employees.

"The personnel committee is going to meet Wednesday and we will be looking at this arrangement with Bob Clark to see if it is appropriate," Malone said. "It raises some questions but I don't know enough about it to come to any conclusions."

Gov. Mike Huckabee was unaware of the situation, according to spokesman Rex Nelson, but when asked, responded, "The governor said that is an issue the DDS Board might wish to re-examine."

The Conway center has been investigated seven times by state investigators and three times by federal investigators since February 2001 on allegations of failing to protect its nearly 600 residents.

After the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette raised questions about sexually active residents preying on other residents and the failure to report abuse at the Conway center, Human Services eventually told Clark he had to resign or be fired.

Clark's assistant, Calvin Price, is acting superintendent.

Human Services accommodated Clark's stay in the house by creating a "permanent extra help" position for him, according to Bill Tyler, assistant director of human resources for the department.

"Clark and Price can't share the same position," Tyler said. "We have moved Bob Clark to another position. We needed something that will allow a salary range high enough to cover his salary."

Clark made $78,000 as superintendent.

"That creates an opening to move Calvin Price in as acting superintendent," Tyler said. "This way, Calvin runs the show until the DDS board either hires him if he has applied for the job or brings in someone new."

The Developmental Disabilities Services board is reviewing applications for Clark's replacement.

Tyler said the permanent extra help category is generally used to fill an interim position after someone leaves. "It very seldom happens that somebody hangs over and takes a leave," he said.

Tyler wrote in an e-mail to Selig, "In the DDS case, the permanent extra help positions could allow that capability. This bends the purpose/intent of the permanent extra help, but similar bendings have occurred before."

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