Trial begins for Gould mayor

STAR CITY – A Lincoln County Circuit Court jury of seven women and five men is scheduled to continue hearing testimony at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the state’s prosecution of Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr.

Nash is on trial for obstruction of governmental operations, two counts of nonfeasance in office (misdemeanor charges) and forgery (a felony.)

The 12 jurors and one alternate were selected Monday from a pool of some 70 potential jurors called to hear the charges against Nash, who could be removed from office if convicted of the charges. A defense attorney indicated Nash was a victim of a “long brewing political dispute” during the opening statement.

Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter charged Nash with obstructing governmental operations, theft of property, abuse of office and two counts of nonfeasance in office, and then later added a forgery count to the list.

City Recorder-treasurer Pamela Barley-Gibson and former Alderman Harry Hall lodged assault charges against Nash.

Dallas County District Judge Ronnie Phillips, who served as a special judge, convicted Nash in July in Lincoln County District Court of one count of battery in the third-degree in Barley-Gibson’s case, but acquitted the mayor of assaulting Hall.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau maintained during the state’s opening statement the prosecution would offer proof Nash has ignored state law, failed to cooperate with the Gould City Council, utilized federal disaster flood aid to repair vandalism at a city-owned structure and forged the council’s authorization on a document establishing a new checking account.

Hank Bates of Little Rock and Gene McKissic of Pine Bluff argued that Nash as the city’s chief executive officer had the authority to act in Gould’s behalf.

“Nash took the initiative,” Bates said.

The attorney also maintained that Nash acted in good faith when he vetoed the council’s appointment of Barley-Gibson as recorder-treasurer three times.

Alderman Veronica Tensley testified that Nash repeatedly vetoed action taken by the council, including routine ordinances and locked the aldermen out of City Hall.

“Each time he vetoed it, we came back to override,” she added.

When Bates questioned why the city’s bills had not been paid, Tensley replied, “They could if they had a recorder-treasurer.”

Barley-Gibson has repeatedly claimed Nash has refused to allow her to enter the recorder-treasurer’s City Hall office and has blocked her efforts to carry out her duties since she was appointed to the office by the council.

Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt of White Hall is presiding over the trial.