Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s office recently sought an opinion from the Arkansas Secretary of State on whether an Oct. 5, 2012, court ruling handed down by Circuit Judge Jay Moody remained the controlling law concerning the timing of the city’s next mayoral election.
Hollingsworth said that once it came to her attention that someone had been trying to find out if they could file for candidacy in a Pine Bluff mayoral election in 2014, she began an inquiry of her own.
“As soon as I got wind of it I contacted Chrishauna Clark, my attorney who represented me in the 2012 lawsuit filed by [former] Mayor [Carl A.] Redus,” Hollingsworth said Tuesday. “I contacted her because I knew how the judge had ruled. She got in touch with the Jefferson County Clerk’s office to verify that the ruling was on file. After she found that it was on file she contacted the Secretary of State’s office.”
Hollingsworth said she was notified that the Secretary of State’s office agreed with her that the next Pine Bluff mayoral race will not occur until 2016.
Alex Reed is the director of public affairs for the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office.
“Mayor Hollingsworth’s office contacted us seeking our opinion on whether the 2012 court ruling was the controlling law on the matter of when the next Pine Bluff mayoral election will be,” Reed said. “Our General Counsel Martha Adcock looked into it and agreed that the next mayoral election will not be until 2016.”
Redus argued in a lawsuit filed in September 2012 that because the population of Pine Bluff had dropped below 50,000 in the last federal census, the proper time to hold a mayoral election would be in 2014, and that he should be allowed to serve another two years after his term expired on Jan 1. 2013.
Redus’ lawsuit asked the judge to order the Jefferson County Election Commission not to count the votes cast in the mayoral election on Nov. 6, 2012, and County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson not to certify the results.
Moody ruled that Section 14-37-113 of Arkansas Code is the controlling law on the matter.
“It is declared to be the intent of the General Assembly that in the event any city to which the law was applicable at the time of the enactment of that law shall subsequently achieve a lesser or greater population than the classification prescribed by law, the law shall nevertheless thereafter be equally applicable to any such city, irrespective of the fact that the city no longer has a population within the classification prescribed by the law,” the law reads in part.
Moody said the plain language of the law made it clear that the way elections were held in a municipality when the law first went into effect will stay the same regardless of future population declines or increases.
“I find that the only way to abide by these rules is to interpret these statutes to require that the Pine Bluff Mayoral election take place as scheduled, this November 2012,” Moody said in his ruling.