Former Arkansas lawmaker accused of theft from chamber

TEXARKANA -- Fonda Hawthorne, a former Arkansas state representative, has been arrested on a theft of property charge related to several thousand dollars in unauthorized purchases on the Little River Chamber of Commerce debit card.

Hawthorne is executive director of the Little River Chamber of Commerce in Ashdown, about 18 miles north of Texarkana.

Hawthorne made a first court appearance Thursday in Sevier County Circuit Court in De Queen before Circuit Judge Tom Cooper. She was told to return to Ashdown and turn herself in at the Little River County sheriff's office where she was booked into the county jail, according to officials.

Hawthorne posted $7,500 bond Thursday afternoon and was released from the Little River County jail. She is scheduled to appear in Little River County Circuit Court on Jan. 30 for her formal arraignment.

A bank in Ashdown notified a chamber board member about suspicious activity on the chamber's debit card, according to court records. There were several transactions totaling $16,000, according to the documents.

The investigation is ongoing, prosecutor Bryan Chesshir said.

Hawthorne has a history of public service in the region. She served as a Democrat in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015 for District 4, which encompasses all of Little River and Sevier counties and part of Howard County. She was defeated in her 2014 re-election bid by Republican DeAnn Vaught.

Hawthorne also was the former De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce executive director and the former Sevier County Economic Development director.

She was hired as head of economic development in De Queen and Sevier County in January 2011 after a career with Southwestern Electric Power Co.

She also served as executive director of the Texarkana Regional Initiative, a regional economic-development group that sought to attract business and industry to southwest Arkansas, northeast Texas and northwest Louisiana.


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State Desk on 01/21/2018