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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Fine assessed against local "handyman service" remains unpaid and company seemingly continues jobs

According to information from the state organization that licenses contractors across Arkansas, a Fort Smith company owned by a controversial woman has still yet to pay a penny on a $4400 fine assessed against her in March, 2022 for running an illegal home improvement company.

Darla Lackey, who also went to jail for contempt of court twice earlier this year, is the registered owner of a company called Fort Smith Handyman. Lackey, her live-in boyfriend Craig Wooton and Fort Smith Handyman were handed the fine in March of last year after investigators for the Arknas Residential Contractors Board observed work on a project for 11 days by the company while being uninsured, unlicensed and unbonded. The fine assessed by the contractors board is $400 a day. According to a spokesman for that organization, not only is the contractor liable for a fine in that amount if they do unauthorized business, but the home or business owner that allows an unlicensed company to perform work on their property is also subjected to the same fine. As of October 17, Fort Smith Handyman still has a website online (click HERE) ) advertising for jobs and soliciting bids and ond another contains reviews of work done by the company for "painting, cabinet work, and trim work" in January of this year, a clear violation of the March 2022 edict.

According to at least two sources, Wooton has worked on at least two jobs since the fine was assessed in violation of the rules and regulations that govern contractors in the state. Also, Lackey was overheard by customers in a local business bragging about how the company had just completed two jobs "and finally had enough money" to start legal action" against Today in Fort Smith owner Dennis McCaslin.

Lackey, who was sentenced to three years in the Kansas state prison system in early 2000s for theft of property, forgery, and drug violations, was the founder and board president of a failed food pantry, Pay it Forward Fort Smith. The organization had a location in the 600 block of North 10th Street for a little over a year before she was evicted for failing to pay rent. The building owner evicted the organization from the building in 2021 and won a judgment of almost $5,000 for back rent and damage done to the building.

Another party also sued Lackey in Fort Smith District Court last year after the court determined that Lackey had sold furniture and fixtures that the man had loaned to Pay it Forward Fort Smith food pantry before the eviction.

That party won almost $2,000 in judgments from the court. Just like the fine levied against the handyman business, not one penny has been paid towards that judgment. Lackey also found herself sentenced to 24 hours in jail during that Court session when she took pictures of spectators while the court was in a still in session. In addition, Lackey lost a two-and-a-half year battle after she attempted to sue a woman who alerted police and media to what was alleged to be unauthorized use of nonprofit funds. That determination saw Lackey sentenced to 48 hours in jail for contempt of court and she was also ordered by judge Diane Ladd to pay the other parties legal fees of $2,500 As of this date nothing has been paid toward settling the legal fees.

McCaslin, who was a board member and volunteer for the food pantry for almost a year, quit in 2001 after observing numerous violent outbursts towards staff and volunteers and questionable money transactions by Lackey. Lackey then started a relentless campaign of libel, slander, and defamation against McCaslin that continues today.

Also, on Monday of this week Lackey posted on social media that she had obtained a federal EIN number and State and local business license in the name of "Today in Fort Smith". None of that is true, and the media company is already registered with the state and the federal government under that name. Lackey was apparently able to obtain the domain name "" through a domain registrar and now claims she owns the logo and the trademark of the media company. Both logo and the trademark are protected by common law trademark laws. Lackey's intent in buying that domain name is a clear indication that the harassment of McCaslin, his company, and his family will apparently continue unchecked by local prosecutors. Over two years ago, Lackey told a party in a text message but McCaslin was a "child molester" and a few days later the Child Protective Services of the Arkansas State Police interviewed the child and McCaslin about the allegations. McCaslin was completely exonerated by the Arkansas State Police. Lackey has also made in person and online unfounded and baseless allegations to the FSPD against McCaslin on at least 22 occasions, While the 22 false reports to the FSPD are a misdemeanor, the false report made to the Arkansas State Police is a felony under Arkansas State law. All of the false allegations were investigated by the FSPD earlier in the year and referred to the city and county prosecutors, who both elected to "not get involved".

Shue maintains the ASP is not a "law enforcment agency"

Sebastian County prosecutor Daniel Shue said his reasoning for not pursuing the felony charges against Lackey was that the report was not made to a "law enforcement agency". That, despite the fact the business card McCaslin was given the day he was investigated and the letter exonerating him for the false allegations both bear the seal of the Arkansas State Police department.

"Given that, I guess potential suspects arrested by the Arkansas State Police in Sebastian County could challenge their prosecution since Shue 'apparently' doesn't recognized the ASP as a 'law enforcement office' under state statute," said McCaslin. Lackey and Wooton are also the parties behind two Facebook pages designed to defame McCaslin and any of his supporters. "Today in Fort Smith Behind the Keyboard" operated for about a year before the couple started a new page "Fort Smith Information". The "Behind the Keyboard" page was utilized almost daily to repeat the baseless allegations against McCaslin and anyone who came to his page and commented or liked a post. That page also committed numerous violation of trademark laws by using TIFS-generated creative material in an attempt to confuse potential advertisers for the site. After months of personal attacks on McCaslin and others on the "Fort Smith Information" page, it was seemingly taken down last week by Facebook because of numerous reports to that company by Lackey's victims. Two days after that page was shut down, the "Behind the Keyboard" page reemerged and picked up the mantle of the attacks on McCaslin and other citizens. "We have definitive information that both Lackey and Wooton are at least associated with both those pages", McCaslin said. "In one incident, we have a statement from the sheriff's office saying that Lackey was the one that made an FOIA request for a courthouse video that appeared on the "Fort Smith Information" page the same day the video jump drive was picked up by Lackey at the Sheriff's office." "The only reason we haven't sued these individuals is that every time she loses a court case, she claims her net worth is '$8 in the bank and a Moon Pie' and her victims are repeatedly left holding the bag," said McCaslin. "We have been told by more than one official that the situation involves 'a mental health issue' and that is seemingly the reason this woman is allowed to continue her actions unchecked." "We shouldn't have to sue someone who has committed numerous violations of local and state laws during this campaign of hatred and slander" said McCaslin. "We continue to maintain that both the City and County prosecutors have misused their prosecutorial discretion to allow this situation to fester." McCaslin cited a recent incident involving Lackey as further proof of her attempts at discrediting him and his media outlet.

"Apparently, she somehow convinced a producer of a nationally syndicated talk show that all of the garbage she has been spilling out for the past three years was true," said McCaslin. "They contacted me and were quite accusatory in the beginning. I readily accepted their offer to come on the show and take a polygraph exam and I provided them with all of the background material and information they asked for". McCaslin said that three days later he was contacted by that producer and was told the potential show had been canceled. The producer told McCaslin that "her evidence carried little weight" as a reason for the cancellation. McCaslin maintains he was given other "off the record" reasons for the cancellation of the taping and that the show refused to give him a requested written statement about the reason for the cancellation despite being reassured of the possibility of that happening during the initial phases of the conversation.

"We have offered on numerous occasions to take a polygraph exam along with Ms. Lackey in an effort to get closure on this situation", said McCaslin. "Each of those offers have been met with abject silence and the response that 'she is not a criminal' and therefore she shouldn't have to take a lie detector test." McCaslin was asked if he thought Lackey didn't think going on the nationally syndicated talk show would vindicate her charges why would she approach them in the first place. "For the same 'unofficial reasons' they canceled the proposed taping of the show in the first place," said McCaslin. "After talking to both sides and weighing the evidence, I think they came to the conclusion that one of the two parties was not telling the truth." "I was told the cancellation had nothing to do with me," McCaslin said. "That only leaves one party in the mix that possibly couldn't have been telling the truth."

McCaslin maintains that he is sitting on "dozens of elements" of Lackey's misdeeds over the past three years including unsolicited testimonial from her own family members about her actions in the past.

"We have tried reasoning with her and sent her at least two cease and desist letters in the past", said McCaslin. "She rejected both. In the last letter, against my better judgment, we offered to never write anything about Lackey in the future if she would just agree to a written settlement saying she would leave me, Today in Fort smith, and my family alone." McCaslin said not only did the woman reject that offer, she doubled down on her lies and accusations after the fact. "I was never comfortable with that offer in the first place," said McCaslin. "My attorney talked to me into it as a last ditch effort to avoid litigation." McCaslin said a lawsuit will be filed, but it has been delayed for a number of reasons including a busy schedule for his attorneys and some unexpected issues settling the estate of his late wife. "The day this woman accused me of child molestation was when I vowed to never back down from her harassment and bullying," McCaslin said. 'The day she posted on social media shortly after my wife's death that her passing was my karma for 'everything he's done to the non-profit' just cemented my resolve."

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