If certified, Jones will face vote of confidence
By Mark Randall firstname.lastname@example.org
A petition to recall Earle Mayor Carolyn Jones is back in the hands of the county clerk. Only this time, supporters say they know they have enough valid signatures this time — and some extras just in case. “We have 15 over what we need this time,” said Earley Wallace, who has spearheaded the recall effort. “And I have another 12 I can turn in.” This is the second time Wallace has turned in the petition. In order to force a recall election they needed 368 valid signatures of registered voters in Earle. Their first petition had 368 names, but only about 200 were found to be valid registered voters by County Clerk Paula Brown. Wallace said she is confident the signatures will all be found to be valid this time. Many of the signatures were registered voters who had voted in recent elections, but their address had changed. “It was nothing but an address thing,” Wallace said. Brown recently sent out letters to county voters to update their information, otherwise their names would be purged from the county voter rolls. The recall petition was started by Wallace, who worked for the city for 11 years before she was fired by Jones last April. Wallace has said she started the petition because of the turmoil Earle has experienced since Jones took 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 a source of turmoil. Upon taking office, Jones fired four white police officers and replaced them with four black officers. Two of those officers are suing the city. One of the new hires, Demarcus McPherson, was later arrested by State Police on drug charges and also later faced charges in Shelby County for impersonating a police officer, kidnapping, and robbing a man. Another 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. 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 Capt. Fitzgerald Couch, who was asleep on duty. The charges against Smith were subsequently dismissed and he has retained an attorney and is threatening to sue the city. Under Jones, the city has also 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. One of the city’s police cars, a 2014 Dodge Charger, recently had to be repaired because it blew an engine rod because the oil was low, despite the fact that Jones hired a mechanic for $4,000 to maintain and fix the city’s equipment. The city’s finances have also declined since Jones took office. The city had to cash in a $50,000 certificate of deposit to pay its bills for the rest of the year because of overspending. Six out of eight city council members agreed to take a salary cut in order to help Earle balance its books entering 2016. If the signatures on the petition meet the necessary requirements, the county clerk will then forward it to the county election commission who must then set an election date no later than 90 days from when the petition was certified. If voters decide in favor of recalling the mayor, a vacancy in the office will then be declared. Wallace said she believes the voters have had enough of Jones. “We didn’t have a hard time getting the signatures,” Wallace said. “Carolyn Jones is just one big lie.” Calls to Mayor Jones were not returned.