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Little Rock Police Department's civilian spokesman relies on alias adopted during earlier broadcast career

by Joseph Flaherty | October 25, 2021 at 6:57 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock Police Department headquarters are shown in this 2019 file photo.

Mark Edwards, the civilian spokesman for the Little Rock Police Department, has used an alias during his yearlong tenure as a police spokesman, and before that during his career in broadcast media.

According to records contained in his personnel file, his legal name is Mark C. Nelson.

Edwards was hired in late October 2020 as a full-time police media relations specialist with an annual base pay set at $57,000, records show.

According to his resume, Edwards worked as a news and sports anchor for Waypoint Media's news hub in Little Rock from 2014 to 2019.

Before that, he spent a little more than a decade at KTHV-TV, Channel 11, the CBS affiliate in Little Rock, where he worked as a sports anchor and reporter as well as a weekend morning show co-host, his resume states.

From 1993 to 2003, according to his resume, Edwards worked for local radio station KIPR-FM 92.3.

Asked about his use of the moniker, Edwards said that "everybody that's in our industry has done that," and went on to name several current and former media figures in Arkansas.

"All of us use the same name we've always used, so I don't know why I'm different," he said by phone Thursday. "Just out of curiosity."

[DOCUMENT: Read the personnel file for Mark Edwards »]

Edwards suggested that "hardly any people in the industry" use their legal name.

Asked about how his use of the on-air name continued when he went to work for the Police Department, Edwards said, "Because I still do stuff under my name as a business. I still do things under my name, that's -- there's no difference between me and anybody else."

Moments later, before he could be asked additional questions, Edwards said he had something to do and ended the phone call.

He did not respond to written follow-up questions via email, including the question of whether he made Little Rock personnel aware during the hiring process that he planned to continue using the moniker while working for the police department.

Little Rock communications staffers did not respond by deadline to a request for comment via email that provided them with the same questions the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had posed to Edwards.

According to Dina Tyler, a former television reporter who spent years working for the state's prison, parole and probation agencies, she adopted her on-air surname when she started working for a television station in Texas in what was her first job after graduating college in December 1980.

"And back then, it was in vogue pretty much, especially if you had a difficult last name or a long last name, to change your name to something shorter and more common," she said by phone Friday. "And my producer changed my name based on the recommendation of the news director just to change my name."

Her particular moniker came from the city of Tyler, Texas, she said. Tyler went on to use it while working in television in Little Rock, explaining that it effectively became her name even though it was never her legal surname.

"Well, I worked at Channel 11 for a little more than a decade and then when I switched over to the other side I just kept the name because that's how everybody knew me," she recalled. "No one had ever known me by my real last name."

As an additional layer of security and anonymity, Tyler suggested her assumed name was advantageous. She explained that she "worked for agencies with offenders, and you couldn't find Dina Tyler."

Tyler retired from the Arkansas Department of Corrections last year.

An employment lawsuit Edwards filed seven years ago noted his use of the moniker while working in sports broadcasting in Little Rock.

In 2014, Edwards filed a lawsuit against Gannett Co., which owned KTHV at the time, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, alleging discrimination. (Gannett later spun off its broadcast television stations, including KTHV, into a separate company called Tegna.)

According to an initial complaint, which sought class certification for other Black employees of Gannett in the southeast U.S., at the time of the lawsuit Edwards was working as a sports broadcaster in Little Rock for the television station.

In the initial complaint, he claimed the general manager at the station approached him after a job offer in Cleveland was extended to Edwards. The manager expressed that the station was opposed to him leaving.

Edwards claimed he agreed to stay in Little Rock as a result of a promise from management that he would be fast-tracked for the number one spot as sports director at KTHV.

In the complaint, Edwards said he was later passed over for a promotion in favor of a white man with less sports broadcasting experience from another station in 2012.

Edwards also claimed Gannett interfered with a job offer from a broadcaster in Arizona, which resulted in the employment opportunity being terminated.

Three amended complaints were filed with the court before Edwards ultimately moved to dismiss the lawsuit about six months after it was filed.

When Little Rock hired him in 2020, records show Edwards' salaried position was originally meant to be exempt from overtime, but a change was implemented when he was a few months into the job.

Police Chief Keith Humphrey raised the issue with Mayor Frank Scott Jr. in December 2020, according to an email Humphrey sent to the mayor and the city's top human resources official, Stacey Witherell.

According to the email exchange contained in Edwards' personnel file, Witherell had suggested the overtime-status change would create issues, and provided an earlier response in which she had advised against it.

Witherell raised the question of whether other employees who had to take compensatory time instead of overtime pay "would want money too."

"You have officers that continually exceed the comp time maximum," she wrote. "You have many salaried employees who work many hours without additional compensation and to change this classification would create more issues than it would solve."

In a follow-up message a week later, Witherell informed the police chief that Scott had approved the change request after she had raised it with the mayor that morning.

Edwards faced pushback from within the department earlier this year when he clashed with a local television anchor, Kevin Kelly, who works for Fox 16.

While taping a sit-down interview with Humphrey, Kelly asked the chief about a series of stabbings, which sparked the heated exchange with Edwards.

Edwards was issued "documented counseling" after the incident, according to a memo from Assistant Chief Hayward Finks contained in recent court filings.

Print Headline: Civilian kept alias as LR police spokesman from earlier broadcast career


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