Collector, staff barred from Courthouse
Thu, 07/02/2020 - 9:48am classified@mont...
Refusal to take a COVID-19 test by Drew County Collector, Tonya Loveless, and her employees, has resulted in Drew County Judge Robert Akin barring Loveless and staff from the Drew County Courthouse.
In a letter written Tuesday, June 30, and sent via text message to Loveless, Akin informed the Collector that her and her staff’s refusal to take the tests had resulted in her office being closed.
“The refusal of you and your staff to be tested has resulted in the closure of your office,” wrote Akin in the text. “This results in the failure to receipt tax payments to the County. Also, members of the general public are unable to obtain verification from your office as to the payment of their taxes so that they can obtain or renew licenses for their vehicles.”
Akin continues in the letter, advising Loveless that proceedings to remove her from office for nonfeasance may be initiated, he hopes she and her staff reconsider the refusal and get tested so her and her staff may return to the courthouse upon receipt of a negative test result.
“So the citizens of Drew County can be served as they should be,” he wrote. “If you and your staff continue to refuse to be tested for COVID-19, I will be calling a meeting of the Drew County Quorum Court to address this matter and I will notify you of the date and time of the meeting so that you and your staff may be heard.”
The Courthouse is now closed to the public for the rest of the week after Akin was informed by the UA Extension Service one of their employees had tested positive for COVID-19 and were informed all remaining employees would be working from home until further notice, according to a letter written to Loveless by Akin.
“Given the exposure of other Courthouse personnel to COVID-19 from the infected Extension employee and after consultation with the Arkansas Department of Health,” wrote Akin, “I decided to close the Drew County Courthouse on Monday to allow for COVID-19 testing of all Courthouse personnel to assure the safety of both Courthouse personnel and members of the general public who come to the Courthouse.”
According to the letter, Akin states the reason Loveless and her staff refused to take the test was due to local daycare centers refusing to watch children of Courthouse employees because they heard about a positive case in the Courthouse. Akin then expressed confusion believing a negative test result would calm fears of daycare providers and also questioned the validity of the argument since not all members of the staff have children in daycare.
“Not having a Collector rips at the fabric of the County,” said Akin when asked for a comment. “The health and safety of our employees and the public who enters the Courthouse is our priority and County business still has to be done. This decision was made based off of consultations with the Arkansas Department of health.”
Loveless claims her and her staff are following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for critical workers when someone tests positive.
“I chose to have my employees self quarantine for 14 days versus being swabbed for COVID-19,” said Loveless via text Wednesday, July 1.
For a myriad of reasons ranging from where the testing took place, daycare issues for employees, among others, Loveless chose the quarantine guideline to follow for employees. However, she has decided to take the test
“Although it is constitutionally unethical to be required to test based on CDC and the Association of Arkansas Counties that both state he cannot mandate a test, if quarantining is done and to be allowed into my elected office to do the job I was elected to do, I will be testing.”
“All COVID-19 guidelines, rules and regulations are very clear and concise and easily accessible on their websites and I am following said guidelines so it is unclear to me as to why Judge Robert Akin is having such a hard time following them,” Loveless stated.