3) New mayor causes chaos in Earle

In the 2014 election, Carolyn Jones ousted Earle Mayor Otis Davis following a runoff that many viewed as an upset. The newly installed Mayor Jones took office in January, and almost immediately controversy began to swirl around the city’s new top elected official. Jones’ first meeting with the Earle City Council took place in late January. Almost immediately Jones butted heads with other city officials, thus beginning her contentious tenure as mayor. Jones fired Police Chief Jerry Eaves, hiring Tyrone Smith in his place. When asked about the change and the rights of the citizens of Earle to have an explanation, Jones snapped, “I don’t think they really care. It was not their business. It was my call.” Mayor Jones also fired two other police officers. Tommy Hampton and Waldo McWans were fired within weeks of Jones taking office, along with Chief Eaves. Eaves was dismissed on Jan. 12 by Jones and Hampton on Jan. 13 by newly appointed chief Tyrone Smith. McWans was terminated on Jan. 19 by Smith for allegedly not showing up for his scheduled shift on Jan. 17 and 18. Attorney Larry Jackson, representing the officers in a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, said none of the officers were ever really told the reason why they were being let go and Jones refused to answer any questions about the firings. In February, Jones was criticized for appropriating a 2014 Dodge Charger which was purchased through a federal grant program specifically to replace an aging police vehicle for her personal use. Former Mayor Otis Davis had the car striped with police markings in December but Jones had the markings taken off when she took office and has been driving the vehicle for her own use. The Arkansas Department of Administration and Finance who oversees the JAG grant ultimately forced Jones to give up the vehicle. Jones then talked the City Council into purchasing another vehicle for her to use. Controversy continued to plague the Earle Police Department. In March, one officer was arrested on drug charges. In April, another was charged in Memphis with kidnapping and theft. Yet another incident saw an Earle officer charged in a shooting. And Officer Derek Fleming, Jr. made headlines with an online rant that included threats to clean up the streets of Earle. In the comments section of a police department support group on Facebook, Fleming wrote: “I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States. Therefore, when I check 10-8 on the streets of Earle, AR, it’s game on.” Fleming then wrote that he was prepared to shoot to kill and commented that “I’m going home the way I come whether I have to take one life or five lives. I refuse to let today’s generation take over the streets” and identified himself as “an American soldier and I am a state of Arkansas police officer. Both I will defend until the end.” Jones stirred up more trouble for the city by taking a load of donated gravel from the county and using it for her own personal residence. She also began a contentious relationship with City Clerk Cynthia Conner and implemented a sign-in sheet as City Hall. Ultimately, disgruntled citizens began a petition to force a recall vote on the mayor. Signatures are still being collected with hopes of including the measure on the March 1 primary ballot.

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