Hearing delays Gould lawsuit

STAR CITY – An amendment to a lawsuit seeking to have two Gould aldermen removed from office is expected to be filed within 30 days in Lincoln County Circuit Court, attorneys indicated at the conclusion of a hearing Wednesday morning in the court.

Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt questioned his jurisdiction in the original suit, citing a motion filed in the case by state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

The original suit was filed by Samuel King and Novell Dixon, members of the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, and the GCAC, a private citizen’s group, to remove Aldermen Harry Hall and Roseanna Smith-Lee from the Gould City Council as unqualified for office.

Attorney James McMath, who represents the petitioners, maintained Hall has been convicted of one or more felonies and is disqualified from serving in an elected office and that Smith-Lee ran for and was elected to represent Ward 2 in 2010 when she resided in Ward 1.

Individuals running for an aldermanic position must reside in the ward for which they are running and remain a resident there as long as they hold the office from that ward.

Howard M. “Corky” Holthoff of Dumas, who represents Hall and Smith-Lee, filed an answer, contending that membership of the GCAC is not limited to residents of Gould and some reside in other communities, having no standing in a court to enforce election laws in Gould.

McDaniel’s motions said actions available to King, Dixon and the GCAC include asking the prosecuting attorney to oust Hall and Smith-Lee or the pursuit of an illegal exaction suit against Smith-Lee and Hall.

Wyatt said he would have jurisdiction in the latter and McMath indicated he would file an amended complaint within 30 days. Holthoff would have 30 days to respond.

A hearing on an amended suit could be delayed with seven circuit and district court judges sharing the only courtroom at the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Holthoff asked in his original answer that Aldermen Ermer Preston and Essie Mae Cableton be removed from office and prohibited from holding public office in Gould in the future.

Preston, Cableton and the GCAC are illegally occupying a city-owned building at Gould, Holthoff argued, without paying rent or utilities, and were retaliating against Hall and Smith-Lee, who supported council action to remove them from the city-owned structure.

Mayor Earnest Nash Jr., Preston and Cableton should be punished for allowing the GCAC to occupy the city building without paying rent and utilities, Holthoff’s counter-petition maintained, and the GCAC should be ejected from the building and ordered to reimburse the city for unpaid rent and utilities.

Nash, Cableton and Preston have been feuding with four aldermen, including Smith-Lee and Hall, for months.

The four — Sonja Farley, Smith-Lee, Veronica Tensley and Hall —voted three times to appoint Pamela Barley-Gibson as Gould’s recorder-treasurer. Nash has vetoed each appointment.

Barley-Gibson and Hall contended they were assaulted by Nash when they accompanied a locksmith to Gould City Hall to open the recorder-treasurer’s office in response to a council directive.

Farley, Hall, Smith-Lee and Tensley fired Chairman Johnny Hendrix, Kenneth Pointer, Lee Swygart and Edward Lane, members of the Municipal Water and Sewer Commission in January. Nash vetoed the firing.