STAR CITY — A circuit judge ordered Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. held in contempt and jailed Wednesday.
Alderman Essie Mae Cableton was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at the Lincoln County Courthouse following a hearing Wednesday morning.
Nash was ordered held without bond by Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt of White Hall, while Cableton was released on her own recognizance.
Gould City Recorder-treasurer Pamela Barley-Gibson filed a petition in Lincoln County Circuit Court last week asking Nash be held in contempt and removed from office. She contended Nash continues to bar her entry into the recorder-treasurer’s office at Gould City Hall.
Hank Bates of Little Rock, one of Nash’s attorneys, told a Lincoln County Circuit Court jury last month that Nash had sent Barley-Gibson a letter indicating she would have access to the office. She said she received the letter earlier this week, noting the correspondence had been mailed to her daughter’s home in Star City, not to her Gould residence.
Wyatt reminded Bates the court had upheld Barley-Gibson’s January appointment as recorder-treasurer by the Gould City Council.
Attorney Gene McKissic of Pine Bluff, who also represented Nash last month in a criminal trial which ended in a mistrial, said steps are “being taken” to allow Barley-Gibson access to her office. One key was turned over to Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter, Bates said Wednesday.
The latest legal action was filed last Thursday by Howard M. “Corky” Holthoff, Dumas attorney, maintaining Nash’s actions constituted “willful disobedience of the order of this court and nonfeasance in office.”
“You may want to get counsel for yourself,” Wyatt’s said, reminding Bates of his words to the jury last month.
Wyatt said if the office keys were not delivered by noon Wednesday, he would hold both Nash and Bates in contempt.
Holthoff said a key was delivered at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday and Barley-Gibson went to Gould City Hall later in the day, but learned the single key would only gain access to the outer office.
“The part of the office I saw looked like it had been hit by a storm,” Barley-Gibson told The Commercial. “It is a total mess.”
She could not enter the inner office, was not provided an exterior door or security codes for the alarm system. Barley-Gibson said Nash was at city hall, but ignored her request for the balance of the keys.
She said she would be unable to comply with requests from Nash and the Gould Citizens Advisory Council for municipal records until she has full access to the office.
Nash noted in his letter on Sept. 21 that none of the city’s vendors or employees have been paid and creditors have threatened legal action and repossession of city equipment and termination of utilities.
Wyatt agreed to consider Bates’ arguments opposing Barley-Gibson’s petition on Nov. 1, with briefs due Oct. 26.
A trial date has been set for Feb. 11 for Nash on a felony forgery count, two counts of malfeasance in office and for obstructing governmental operations. No date has been set on additional charges of abuse of office and theft of property.