Focus on action, not distractions


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Alderman George Stepps filed a complaint Tuesday against Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, asking Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter to determine if evidence warrants the first-term mayor being charged with “malfeasance, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance in office.”

Conviction could have resulted in Hollingsworth being removed from office.

Hunter didn’t bite, saying in a letter to Stepps that he “would not prosecute a nonfeasance case that is based on city laws that have a history of not being enforced and are subject to different interpretations.”

The city’s first-term chief executive had not been deterred by the attempt by Stepps and Aldermen Glen Brown and Thelma Walker to derail her, saying she would “deal with that as I have to” while continuing to “focus on what I was elected to do — moving the city forward instead of backward.”

Stepps contended in the complaint, also signed by Brown and Walker, that based on Hollingsworth’s failure to abide by a city ordinance mandating that city department heads — particularly interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks — reside within the city, she was guilty of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance. Hubanks lives in Cleveland County.

The three city council members maintained that a 2000 ordinance requires the police and fire chiefs and other municipal department heads to live inside the city limits. However, the ordinance involving police officers was not always enforced under previous mayors, something that has been pointed out repeatedly.

Stepps said later in the week that his complaint would go away if Hubanks would get an apartment in town and register to vote here. For entertainment value, it’s been interesting to watch, Stepps and Walker particularly, as they try to square the fact that they didn’t enforce the residency requirement before but now they are. Now you see me; now you don’t.

The prosecutor earns a thumb up by resolving the residency quickly and reaching a commonsense decision.

Obey the FOIA

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A number of death-row inmates are seeking a judge’s order compelling the state Department of Correction to release information about the drugs it plans to use for lethal injections. We believe the request is reasonable and the department has taken an unreasonable approach again.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig maintains the department has not complied with the request submitted under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. We have argued the same point several times in recent years when department personnel made a pitch to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Coalition.

A law enacted earlier this year lists the types of drugs that the department can use for executions. The law was a response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that the previous lethal-injection law gave too much discretion to the DOC director, in violation of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

By filing suits challenging the lethal injection drugs in the courts, any citizen exercising the FOIA can read all the details in the court filings. So much for secrecy.

Opening eyes

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United Way of Southeast Arkansas head Jim Caldwell wants to help put that philosophy of reading to work in Pine Bluff.

Academic, business and community leaders joined Caldwell earlier this month to announce entertainer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program in which a new book is delivered to children — from newborn to age 5 — each month at their homes at no cost to the recipients or their parents. A monthly fee of just $2.08 per child is paid by a sponsoring non-profit.

Youth Partners — one of the United Way’s 26 partnering agencies — has pledged to underwrite the project contingent on community support. Pine Bluff attorney Eugene Hunt, a member of Youth Partners’ board of directors, says the notion of young children being educated through reading is “a personal matter.”

At 67, Hunt is now able to enjoy an activity his parents missed with him. “I read to my great-grandchild every night,” he explained.

Hunt sees the program as a “Godsend,” especially in the Delta area, which has a high illiteracy rate. He calls it “fighting poverty with education.”