We are sadly well-accustomed to acts beneath the dignity of our local government officials. It has often been said that we are a small town with big city problems. Perhaps it is the lack of shame among our top officials that disappoints us the most.
That shamelessness ruled the day last week when two of three members of the Jefferson County Election Commission, which is chaired by Ted Davis, former Mayor Carl Redus Jr.’s chief of staff, voted to allow Redus’ name to appear on the ballot as a mayoral candidate in the May 20 Democratic Party primary. It was a breathtakingly arrogant move that, despite a legal ruling and an opinion, put Redus in a position to run in a race that hasn’t and shouldn’t be scheduled. Our first thought was: Oh, that’s why Redus filed to run — his buddy on the Election Commission was always going to make it OK.
In short, Davis’ actions in the matter represent an obvious conflict of interest. Of course, Davis refused to acknowledge the conflict — principally because it doesn’t serve his personal political agenda. Such brashness is eerily consistent with the tone and manner that dominated Redus’ entire time in office.
Davis seems to think that he can do whatever he wants, even in the face of several admonishments to do otherwise.
Circuit Judge Jay Moody ruled against the Redus/Davis plot. Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter advised the election commission in writing that there should be no election until 2016 for Pine Bluff’s mayor, city clerk and city treasurer offices. Even so, Davis dismissed the importance of these rulings, stating that they were “only opinions.”
Perhaps they are. But they are legal pronouncements, and Davis had no reason to go against them other than his political treachery to do his old boss’ bidding.
The lone sentinel of reason on the commission, Stu Soffer — himself the architect of regular controversy — was wholly subordinated to the whim of Davis and Cynthia Sims, the third commission member. While we don’t always agree with Soffer’s tirades, in this instance, he couldn’t be more right.
Soffer told The Commercial he would be filing a formal complaint against Davis with the State Board of Election Commissioners after Davis made decisions on several issues without input from Sims.
We’re tired of these antics. The people were tired of it last November. Otherwise, Redus’ knickknacks would still be on the shelf behind the mayor’s desk. They aren’t. Nor should they ever be again.
Just as Mayor Debe Hollingsworth suggested, all eight of the Pine Bluff City Council slots must also be up for a vote if there’s a mayor’s election this year. Oh, but the filing period has ended, so figure that one out.
Frankly, that might not be a bad thing. Rare is the day when the public gets the opportunity to start anew. While a couple of familiar faces might be tolerable, a fresh beginning with the majority of council members sounds like a pretty good idea. Five or six new folks could hardly do worse.
Appealing as that fresh start might be, we hope it doesn’t come to that. Every time we let characters like Davis and Redus subvert justice, it emboldens them to attempt greater feats of selfish chaos.