Gould council wants prosecutor to investigate finances

GOULD – The Gould City Council Tuesday evening unanimously moved to ask Gov. Mike Beebe and state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to encourage Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter to investigate the municipality’s financial dealings under the administration of Mayor Earnest Nash Jr.

Nash did not attend the monthly council meeting and two of his allies on the six-member panel, Aldermen Ermer Preston and Essie Mae Cableton, walked out before any votes were taken, apparently objecting to Pamela Barley-Gibson, who has been appointed city recorder-treasurer three times by aldermen, presiding in Nash’s absence.

Aldermen Harry Hall, Sonja Farley, Roseanna Smith-Lee and Veronica Tensley voted 4-0 to override Nash’s February veto of Barley-Gibson as recorder-treasurer. Barley-Gibson quoted Mark Hayes, chief legal counsel for the Arkansas Municipal League, as saying Nash’s February veto of her appointment was “illegal and not worth the paper it is printed on.”

Under state law, the recorder-treasurer can preside over a council meeting in the mayor’s absence, Hayes was quoted as saying.

Barley-Gibson and Hall said they learned Nash and Cableton had signed a $2,986.53 check drawn on the city’s “Disaster Fund” without authorization on Feb. 6, adding the federal funds were used to repair vandalism at the Gould Resource Center in apparent violation of a FEMA grant.

Nash also approved utility companies to make electronic debits on the city’s checking accounts without council authorization, the two told aldermen.

Barley-Gibson said a review of bank records indicated the city has been maintaining 11 separate checking accounts, “more than Pine Bluff has.”

Hall, Farley, Smith-Lee and Tensley have been feuding with Nash, Preston and Cableton for months, with Nash maintaining the four are “holding the city hostage.”

The four contend Nash has locked Barley-Gibson out of her City Hall office and locked up street maintenance equipment.

Barley-Gibson and Hall contend they were assaulted by Nash when they went to Gould City Hall with a locksmith to gain access to the recorder-treasurer’s office. They filed an affidavit with the clerk of Lincoln County District Court seeking Nash’s arrest for assault.

Samuel King and Norvell Dixon, members of the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, and the GCAC, a private citizen’s group, filed a civil suit seeking to remove Smith-Lee and Hall from the council. Smith-Lee said if she is removed from the council she will seek re-election in November.

Aldermen authorized Barley-Gibson to solicit bids for street repair materials and distribute applications for full-time police officers to certified candidates. She was also asked to review the lack of the city filing withholding taxes and providing municipal employees with W-2 and 1099 tax forms for 2011.