Earle mayor recall organizers closing in on required signatures

Petition needs about 60 more signatures to qualify for ballot

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

The organizer of a petition drive to recall Earle Mayor Carolyn Jones said she needs about 60 more signatures to reach her goal. “I won’t have any trouble getting them,” said Early Wallace. “I’ve been walking around getting some.” Wallace had turned in an earlier version of the petition which had 385 signatures, but only about 200 of the names were certified as registered voters. According to County Clerk Paula Brown, the recall petition needs 386 names of registered voters. Wallace worked for the city for 11 years but was fired by Jones last April. She started the petition because she was concerned about the direction the city was headed in under Jones’s leadership. Since taking office, Jones got the city banned from applying for federal Justice Assistance Grants for two years as a result of her driving a police vehicle paid for with federal money for her own personal use. The city also got in to hot water with Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for illegally dumping demolition material after the city tore down a house on Commerce Street and hauled the debris off to the old compress on Alabama Street. The mayor also made headlines for using gravel given to the city by the county for her driveway and has had a contentious relationship with the city council and Clerk Cynthia Conner. Jones also enacted a new policy requiring residents to sign in at city hall stating the reason for their visit. The police department has been the biggest source of continuing controversy. Upon taking office, Jones fired four white police officers and replaced them with four black officers. In March, Demarcus McPherson was arrested by State Police on drug charges and later faced charges in Shelby County for impersonating a police officer, kidnapping, and robbing a man. In April, Officer Derek Fleming, Jr., posted comments on Facebook claiming it was “game on” and threatening to take “one life or five lives” to clean up the streets of Earle. Last month, another officer was observed by a city councilman asleep in his vehicle while on duty. Jones also suspended Police Chief Tyrone Smith for 30 days pending the outcome of charges against him for harassment stemming from an incident which took place in Parkin in June. Smith claims he was suspended because he fired the officer who was asleep on duty against the wishes of Jones. Jones has made progress in some areas, however. She has been a tireless advocate for a new library building, and the city has recently been replacing its worn out street signs with new ones. She has also appointed a number of new commissions to help tackle the city’s problems. The most recent complaint has been about the appearance of the city. The city has been unable to keep up with mowing, picking up debris, and trash collection, and they were late spraying for mosquitoes because of broken equipment, which Jones blames on the previous administration’s neglect of maintaining the equipment properly. Wallace said she is confident she will be able to get the required number of signatures, but alleges that Jones has been calling people who signed the petition. “There are some things going on that we can’t put our finger on,” Wallace said. “She (Jones) is calling people and threatening them and is also going around saying she is going to file a lawsuit against me for election fraud saying that I am signing people’s names and that I am going to go to jail. I’m not worried about it.” Voters have also been getting cards from the county clerk’s office asking them to update their voter registration information, which is a routine procedure to ensure the voting roster is current. Wallace said about 50 signatures that she gathered should not have been disqualified. “Some of the people they held up voted in the last election,” Wallace said. “But their addresses had changed or they got married.” The petition must be turned in within the next 90 days in order to make the election ballot.

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