The Arkansas Ethics Commission will investigate a complaint lodged against Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson by James Murry, who is running for sheriff as an independent candidate, commission director Graham F. Sloan said in a letter to Murry.
Murry filed the complaint with the ethics commission, alleging that Robinson’s deputies attended a Feb. 6 fundraiser on county time, that deputies solicited sales of tickets to event on county time, that tickets to the event were distributed from Robinson’s office and that of Chief Deputy Stanley James, and that deputies were given 10 tickets each from the office while on duty.
Murry said he has eyewitnesses and photographs to prove that sheriff’s department vehicles were at Robinson’s fundraiser, as well as to prove that deputies were selling tickets while on duty, and that those deputies were allowed to use the county phone system to sell tickets.
The complaint also alleges that Robinson had a staff meeting on Nov. 14, 2013, and at that meeting threatened deputies by saying “if any of my staff is found to be supporting or assisting my opponent James Murry in his campaign, you will be dealt with.”
“I have an eyewitness who is an employee of the sheriff’s department who heard that statement and felt threatened by that statement,” Murry said Monday. “There are a number of other employees who are also afraid of retaliation from the sheriff.”
Contacted Monday afternoon, Robinson said he had turned the complaint over to his attorney, Greg Robinson, and any comments would come from Robinson.
“The case is still pending. We are reviewing it and preparing a response,” Robinson said.
Murry said he filed the complaint around Feb. 21 and received a response from Sloan on March 5.
In that response, Sloan said Murry’s complaint meets commission requirements and would be investigated.
Specifically, Sloan said the commission would look at “whether or not Sheriff Robinson violated (state law) by using or attempting to use his official position to secure special privileges or exemptions for himself and/or others in connection with allowing deputies and office personnel to attend his campaign fundraising event while on county time without requiring such persons to submit leave requests to account for their absence from duty and/or using for campaign purposes personnel property provided with public funds in connection with utilizing county patrol vehicles to attend the aforementioned campaign event.”
Sloan also said the commission would be looking at whether or not Robinson and/or James were using their offices to distribute campaign fundraising tickets and allowing deputies to use the phone system to solicit the sale of tickets.
In addition, Sloan said the commission would investigate whether or not Robinson violated state law by “coercing, by threats or otherwise, any public employees into devoting time or labor toward his campaign in connection with his alleged conduct at a staff meeting held on or about Nov. 14, 2013 during which he threatened his staff.”
The ethics complaint is the second that has been filed involving the sheriff’s race.
Last week, Roger McLemore, who will be Robinson’s opponent in the Democratic Party primary, filed a complaint against the Jefferson County Election Commission alleging that commission chairman Ted Davis allowed Robinson two chances to draw for a ballot position after election coordinator Will Fox learned that Murry was incorrectly listed on the form Fox was presented as a Democrat.
When Murry originally announced his intention to seek the office, he told The Commercial he would be running as a Democrat but when he filed for office he filed as an independent.
“Overall, I thought Roger McLemore deserved a fair race against the sheriff and I will be bringing up the rear in November,” Murry said.
In his letter to Murry, Sloan instructed him to “submit any and all evidence which you may have concerning the allegations.”
Also according to the letter, for any person convicted under the provisions of the statute while holding public office, the conviction shall be considered misfeasance or malfeasance and will subject that person to impeachment.