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Clerk fired for violating COVID-19 “policy” reinstated

Jonesboro KAIT logo Jonesboro KAIT 2/26/2021 Region 8 Newsdesk
a person standing in front of a piano: Craighead Co. Circuit Clerk Candace Edwards taking the oath of truth in the Craighead Co. Eastern Deputy Clerk Sue Gurley grievance hearing. © Provided by Jonesboro KAIT Craighead Co. Circuit Clerk Candace Edwards taking the oath of truth in the Craighead Co. Eastern Deputy Clerk Sue Gurley grievance hearing.

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Former Craighead Co. Eastern Deputy Clerk Sue Gurley requested a grievance hearing earlier this week with the county over her recent termination by Craighead Co. Circuit Clerk Candace Edwards for violating a “COVID policy.”

In a grievance hearing Friday, a committee overruled the firing and reinstated Gurley.

Edwards did not have a comment after the hearing, and Gurley told Region 8′s Jurnee Taylor that, she’s “just ready to get back to work.”

In a letter from Gurley to County Judge Marvin Day, she states her termination was “without due process,” citing the Arkansas Constitution, U.S. Constitution, and the Craighead County personnel handbook.

Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told Region 8 News that the county’s “COVID policy” does not exist.

Both Gurley and Edwards were in attendance at the hearing and waived their opening statements.

During Friday’s hearing, Gurley confirmed that Brenda Milligan, a deputy county clerk in her office, is the one she’s accusing of contracting COVID from.

Gurley said she visited Milligan Jan. 23 at her home for about an hour after Milligan was recovering from a heart procedure.

Here’s a timeline of what happens next:

The following week, Gurley worked Jan. 25 through Jan. 29 in the office.

Over that next weekend on Jan. 31, Milligan was admitted into the hospital and during that time tested positive for COVID-19.

Gurley did not make it clear when and how she found out Milligan tested positive.

But, on Monday, Feb. 1, she called into work because she was feeling “dizzy and faint.”

As we reported, she says she has other medical conditions and on Feb. 1, she visited her doctor who said he did not believe she needed a COVID-19 test.

Gurley returned to work on Feb. 2, saying she was not feeling well.

While it had been 10 days since the contact with her and Milligan, during the same week Gurley returned to work, she had to visit her doctor for feeling “faint.”

While at work, Gurley says she and her staff don’t wear masks but do put them on when they leave the office.

Gurley says measurements were done inside the office where several employees work, and that allows them to not have to wear their masks when they are inside the office.

As Gurley closed out her testimony, she says she feels like she’s an asset to the Eastern District, and just wants to finish her term and do her job. She says she doesn’t want to hurt anybody or make anyone sick.

She’s asked the county to reinstate her.

Edwards said under oath that she had a conversation with Gurley back in October about not coming to work if she wasn’t “feeling well.” Earlier, Gurley told the committee she has “worked many days, not feeling good,” and added that if she can drive and she doesn’t have a temperature, she’s going to come to work.”

On Feb. 3, Gurley returned, saying she still was not feeling well. Later on the 3rd, she went to the doctor & tested positive for COVID-19.

Edwards says after that, she questioned Gurley’s judgment knowing she had been a close contact, wasn’t feeling well, but still returned to work.

Committee members have asked several questions as to why no one else was sent home, and why the Eastern office wasn’t shut down after Gurley tested positive for COVID-19.

Gurley says she sent a group text message to the other three people who were in the office, telling them she had tested positive.

Committee Chair Richard Rogers announced the committee voted to reinstate Gurley.

The news was met with several in the crowd clapping after the announcement.

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