Judge removes 2 Gould aldermen from council

STAR CITY — Two Gould City Council members were removed from office Wednesday by a circuit judge, who ruled that they were serving illegally. Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt of White Hall said the removal was effective immediately.

Aldermen Roseanna Smith-Lee and Harry Hall were removed from the council in response to a July 2011 civil suit filed by two supporters of Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. and the Gould Citizens Advisory Council.

Hall resigned as an alderman earlier this year and was present in Lincoln County Circuit Court Wednesday, along with Smith-Lee.

Norvell Dixon, Samuel King and the GCAC sued Hall and Smith-Lee, maintaining Hall is a convicted felon and Smith-Lee was elected in 2010 to represent Ward 2 in Gould, but was and continues to be a resident of Ward 1.

Wyatt made the ruling on the status of the two aldermen after meeting briefly in chambers with attorney Howard M. “Corky” Holfhoff, who represented Hall and Smith-Lee, and Ross Noland, attorney for Dixon, King and the GCAC.

However, he ordered the two attorneys to file briefs with the court in an effort to resolve three additional issues raised in the suit:

• Were recent actions taken by the Gould City Council, including the appointment of Pamela Barley-Gibson as city recorder-treasurer and Hall being named one of two officials to sign city checks, legal?

• Was the lease Nash authorized for the GCAC to use the former Simmons First National Bank branch legal?

• Will Hall and Smith-Lee be required to repay their $100 a month salaries for the period in which they served as aldermen.

The first set of briefs are due July 30 and the responses on Aug. 3.

In addition to appointing Barley-Gibson to the recorder-treasurer’s post, the council directed Nash to allow her to work in the City Hall office of the recorder-treasurer.

Nash is scheduled to go on trial Wednesday in Lincoln County District Court on two counts of battery in the third-degree stemming from a February altercation at City Hall involving Barley-Gibson and Hall.

The two contended in affidavits that they were assaulted by Nash when they went to Gould City Hall with a locksmith to gain access to the recorder-treasurer’s office.

Nash has denied assaulting the two. He said he can’t work with her since she brought the assault charges.

Five additional criminal charges are pending against Nash. He is scheduled to go on trial before Wyatt on one set of charges Aug. 13 in Lincoln County Circuit Court.

Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter filed the five charges against Nash in March, accusing him of obstructing governmental operations in the municipality; prohibiting Barley-Gibson from performing her duties; authorizing payments from two municipal funds in violation of municipal ordinance adopted by aldermen; and altering Gould City Court records without authorization and obtaining $520 in court refund.

Nash could be removed from office if convicted of nonfeasance in office, Hunter said.

Nash has vetoed Barley-Gibson’s appointment three times, aldermen contend. He said he issued a veto twice because the council meetings where the appointments occurred were illegal.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Nash accused Barley-Gibson of providing inaccurate minutes of council meetings to aldermen. When Barley-Gibson attempted to respond, Nash would not let her speak, repeatedly wrapping his gavel.

The council has been split for the past 18 months, with few unanimous decisions.

The city has not paid most bills and most salaries since December.