UPDATE Prison board makes DCC director hire interim


LITTLE ROCK — A day after naming state prison system veteran Sheila Sharp as the new director of the Department of Community Correction, the state prison board decided Tuesday that the hire was temporary.

Benny Magness, chairman of the state Board of Corrections, called Tuesday’s meeting by phone to clear up confusion about the board’s intent Tuesday in naming Sharp to succeed David Eberhard, who retired abruptly amid a review of the DCC’s handling of a parolee accused of committing murder while he was free despite multiple arrests.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved Sharp as interim DCC director without discussion.

When the board met in executive session Monday to discuss hiring Sharp for the job, members discussed both making the hire permanent or interim, Magness said earlier Tuesday. He said he thought when member Janis Walmsley made the motion to name Sharp director she was going to say interim, but she did not, he said.

“I was a little bit confused (later Monday),” Magness said. “I personally didn’t know if she had left it off or had meant the other. I don’t know, at the (meeting) I really wasn’t thinking.”

After Monday’s meeting, Magness was interviewed by reporters and not once indicated that Sharp would just be an interim director. Sharp also answered questions as if she was to be the full-time director.

Sharp, who listened to the board meeting in an office at the DCC, is to begin her new job Monday.

She told reporters she was aware Monday that she would serve as interim director because the next director will be recommended by Gov. Mike Beebe.

She said she would like to serve as permanent director of the agency, but has not discussed the job with Beebe.

“It basically has to be confirmed by the governor,” she said, adding she worked with the governor while she was with the state Department of Finance and he was in the state Senate.

“I have a long working relationship with the governor,” she said.

Sharp has been deputy director of the state Department of Correction for the past 15 years.

Beebe told reporters Tuesday he had “no quarrel” with the selection of Sharp as interim director.

“We’ll look at that and see whether that’s interim or more than interim or there’s somebody else,” he said.

Beebe said he did not yet have any candidates in mind to recommend as permanent director.