Resolution of Gould issues possible in ‘12

STAR CITY — The internal feuding at Gould City Hall might be resolved sometime in 2012 if legal issues — both civil and criminal — remain on course.

Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt stated during a hearing Wednesday that if amended pleadings in a civil suit are filed in the next 60 days and he determines he has jurisdiction, the court would be willing to “remove everyone from the mayor on down (from office).”

Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. contends that four members of the Gould City Council are “holding the city hostage” by obstructing progress he has started since he took office Jan. 1, 2011.

“They are trying to dig a ditch for me,” Nash said during an interview Friday. “It is not about Earnest Nash but the city of Gould.”

Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter has asked the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an investigation into actions allegedly taken by Nash when Nash was serving as clerk of the Gould City Court before taking the office of mayor, according to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau.

Juneau confirmed Friday that the prosecutor’s office is seeking additional information in connection with allegations that have been raised. He said he could not comment further on an ongoing investigation.

A district court judge is expected to decide this week if Nash will face assault charges involving an altercation in February involving Alderman Harry Hall and Pamela Barley-Gibson, who has been appointed city recorder-treasurer three times. Nash has vetoed each appointment.

The council overrode two of the vetoes and is expected to override the third one this month.

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.

Barley-Gibson and Hall contended they were attempting to open the recorder-treasurer’s office in response to a council directive after Nash had the locks on the office changed.

Barley-Gibson has since filed an affidavit with the district court seeking the arrest of Essie Williams, an employee of the Gould Water Department, for violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act for refusing to allow Barley-Gibson to examine a bill for a municipal water account.

Samuel King and Norvell Dixon, members of the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, and the GCAC, a private citizen’s group, filed an earlier suit seeking to remove Rosieanna Smith-Lee and Hall from the Gould City Council, contending Smith-Lee does not reside in the ward she represents and Hall is a convicted felon unable to hold public office.

The answer to the lawsuit sought to have Nash and two of his allies, Aldermen Ermer Preston and Essie Mae Cableton, removed from office and prohibited from holding public office in the Lincoln County town in the future.

Both sides in the civil suit agreed Wednesday in an appearance before Wyatt to withdraw their original petitions and submit amended claims and responses. Wyatt had determined he did not have jurisdiction to rule on the suit and counter-claim.

Nash has complained that he and three other employees are not being paid because council members authorized to sign checks are refusing to do so. The mayor noted Hall and Alderman Sonja Farley were authorized to sign checks, but Farley never signed a bank signature card.

The Commercial obtained a copy of a city of Gould check dated Feb. 6 and signed by Nash and Cableton. The check was written to Pine Bluff Glass and Overhead Door in the amount $2,986.53 from the city’s “Disaster Fund.”

Nash said the check covered payment for repair of damage to the Gould Resource Center caused by storms in 2011 and vandalism.

Nash said he has also authorized payments by electronic transfer to pay bills due on utility bills, including the city’s telephone and electricity services.