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3 mayors removed by voters

Another avoids midterm ouster under state’s recall law by Kenneth Heard | November 10, 2016 at 3:23 a.m.

Three Arkansas mayors will leave their offices after results from Tuesday's elections seeking their removals are certified.

A fourth, Hughes Mayor Grady Collum, retained his position by 45 votes in his recall election in the St. Francis County town of 1,441.

It's the most recalls in an election since a state law allowing the removal of elected officials was enacted in 2009, said Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League.

The law allows voters in general elections to remove officials in the middle of their four-year terms, provided those seeking to remove them can gather signatures from at least 25 percent of the town or county's qualified electors.

"It's a high bar to cross to get it on the ballot," Zimmerman said. "I think all these situations came from local controversies."

In Earle, Mayor Carolyn Jones was recalled by a vote of 522-239 on Tuesday.

Jones did not return telephone messages Wednesday.

Earle City Attorney Davis Loftin said the City Council will appoint an interim mayor and then probably vote to hold a special election in January for a new mayor to fill Jones' remaining two years in office.

"This is the first time this has happened in Earle that I can recall," Loftin said.

Humphrey Mayor Rodney Henderson lost his recall election in a 120-93 vote. The town of 557 sits in Arkansas and Jefferson counties. Those on the Arkansas County side of Humphrey voted 53-51 to remove Henderson.

Henderson could not be reached for comment.

"He cleaned out his office," said Humphrey Alderman Michael Hodges, who led the group seeking to remove the mayor.

"He was a tough dude to work with," he said. "He was not mayor material."

Hodges said the City Council named recorder/treasurer Robert Blessing as the interim mayor and will soon name a new mayor to fill the remainder of Henderson's two-year term.

Hartford Mayor James Baker was recalled Tuesday night by a vote of 141- 87.

Baker said the Sebastian County city recalled him because he "was not a puppet" and that the move to oust him ensued after he broke a tie vote among City Council members to renovate City Hall. He also fired the city's museum director, which angered some on the council, he said.

"The council thought I'd be a pushover," he said. "I wasn't."

Baker said he plans to serve as mayor until Wednesday when the election results are certified. He said he and his wife will then move out of Hartford because he has been threatened.

Collum won his bid to remain mayor in Hughes. Residents voted 277-232 to keep him in office.

He said he was never told why a group wanted him out of office, nor did anyone list reasons for his ouster on the ballot.

"I hope this says I wasn't doing something wrong," he said of the election results.

Collum, who has served a total of 12 years as mayor, challenged the election last week, saying St. Francis County Clerk Emily Holley did not certify signatures calling for the election within a deadline set by state law.

St. Francis County Circuit Judge Kathleen Bell agreed with Collum at first and ordered that votes not be counted in Collum's recall election. However, she changed her mind Friday, ordering that the votes be tallied but not certified until she or an appellate court says it is proper to do so.

Collum said his attorney will ask Bell to certify the results so Collum can continue being mayor for two more years.

"The vote count has to be certified," he said. "Either way, I'm still in."

State Desk on 11/10/2016

Print Headline: 3 mayors removed by voters


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