Alderman George Stepps said Monday that he is considering seeking charges against Jack Hollingsworth, a former council member and the husband of Mayor Debe Hollingsworth.
In a report filed with the police department, Stepps said he “felt threatened” by Jack Hollingsworth during an encounter between the two outside the civic center after a March 18 city council meeting.
During the meeting, Stepps announced his intention to ask Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter to consider filing “malfeasance, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance in office” charges against the mayor. Stepps said he wanted the mayor cited for failing to “follow or enforce” a 2000 ordinance on residency requirements for city department heads, specifically Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks. The legislation is in conflict with a 2002 measure that seemingly relaxed standards for a police chief.
Hunter said Friday that he would not pursue charges against the mayor and largely dismissed the matter, saying the council should resolve the issue “by enacting new legislation.” If the mayor had been charged and convicted in circuit court, she would have been removed from office.
Stepps said that upon exiting the civic center, he was approached by Jack Hollingsworth, who had a copy of the letter of explanation Stepps presented to Hunter the following day. The letter wound up being signed by Stepps, Alderman Glen Brown and Alderwoman Thelma Walker.
“He got me by the arm and cursed me,” Stepps said of Hollingsworth. “He was mad and told me, ‘You’re trying to get my wife out.’ I told him that I wasn’t and I wanted to get everything settled. I told him to stop, and he said, ‘No.’”
Stepps said a bystander intervened and told Hollingsworth he “should not be talking to me like that.” Stepps said the mayor also entered the confrontation, “patted Jack on the back” and “told him to stop.”
Stepps said he felt his personal safety might be at risk after the incident and wound up relating the confrontation to Hubanks.
“I told the chief that he’s a hothead,” Stepps said of Hollingsworth. “He was a hothead when he was on the council, too, and he and (former Mayor (Carl A. Redus Jr.) also got into it several times.
“I told the chief that I was a preacher,” at the time of the disagreement with Hollingsworth, Stepps said, “but I don’t know what I’ll be the next time.”
Hollingsworth offered a different view on the encounter.
“I did have a frank discussion with Councilman George Stepps when he approached me following the council meeting,” Hollingsworth said in an emailed statement. “And I encourage more citizens to be just as forthright in their discussions with Alderman Stepps.
“He approached me with a jovial attitude and an outstretched hand, acting as if he had once again stirred up no trouble,” Hollingsworth continued. “His actions and demeanor demonstrated to me that he has no idea of the rift that his actions are causing among the concerned citizenry of Pine Bluff. His constant dissension and rebellious attitude exemplifies that he has no interest in doing what is best for the citizens of Pine Bluff.
“I reminded Stepps that he could be very instrumental in helping Pine Bluff crawl from the quagmire that currently surrounds us,” Hollingsworth went on. “I questioned Alderman Stepps as to why he would file charges against the current mayor after she has spent the first 60 days in office trying to rectify a problem that he has allowed to exist for many years. To which, Mr. Stepps had no reply whatsoever. I am certain that Mr. Stepps did not enjoy the conversation as my discussion with him was direct and truthful, but not demeaning, antagonistic nor hostile.”