Mayor ap­points city at­tor­ney to lead po­lice

Last week, Pu­laski County Cir­cuit Judge Alice Gray re­moved Her­weg ... from the po­si­tion of po­lice chief pend­ing the out­come of a law­suit.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - SCOTT CAR­ROLL In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by John Lynch of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

Jack­sonville Mayor Gary Fletcher on Thurs­day ap­pointed City At­tor­ney Robert Bam­burg as in­terim di­rec­tor of the Po­lice De­part­ment, six days af­ter a Pu­laski Cir­cuit judge tem­po­rar­ily re­moved Chief Ge­of­frey Her­weg from the po­si­tion.

Fletcher said Bam­burg will be his “eyes and ears” at the Po­lice De­part­ment and over­see per­son­nel de­ci­sions, work or­ders and daily ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks.

The mayor said com­man­ders in the Po­lice De­part­ment will con­tinue to man­age tra­di­tional law en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, such as crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions and ar­rests, but will re­port to Bam­burg.

“He’s a di­rec­tor of po­lice, but he is act­ing in an ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tion,” Fletcher said. “He is not the po­lice chief. He has no ar­rest pow­ers or any­thing you’d as­so­ciate with a chief.”

Last week, Pu­laski County Cir­cuit Judge Alice Gray re­moved Her­weg, who was hired in April, from the po­si­tion of po­lice chief pend­ing the out­come of a law­suit that chal­lenges his el­i­gi­bil­ity for the job. Bam­burg is rep­re­sent­ing Her­weg in the suit.

The suit, filed by Jack­sonville Al­der­man Tara Smith, claims Her­weg is barred from the po­si­tion un­der the Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion, which pro­hibits any per­son con­victed of an “in­fa­mous crime” from hold­ing an “of­fice of public trust.” Arkansas courts have ruled that “in­fa­mous crimes” in­clude “an act of de­ceit, fraud or false state­ment,” Gray said in a hear­ing.

Her­weg was con­victed of fil­ing a false po­lice re­port in Wil­liamson County, Texas, in 2002.

Gray ruled that be­cause of that con­vic­tion, Her­weg can­not be Jack­sonville po­lice chief or be paid his $81,000 salary, at least un­til the le­gal­ity of his em­ploy­ment can be ar­gued at trial.

The city has ar­gued that the law on “in­fa­mous crimes” ap­plies to elected of­fi­cials, not ap­pointed of­fi­cials such as Her­weg. Fletcher said the city will ap­peal Gray’s rul­ing.

Fletcher hired Her­weg as po­lice chief af­ter a na­tional search that yielded 31 can­di­dates from 14 states.

Two Jack­sonville po­lice of­fi­cers ap­plied for the job.

The Jack­sonville Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice said Fri­day that it had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on the mayor’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Bam­burg as in­terim di­rec­tor of the de­part­ment.

For­mer state Rep. Nate Steel is among the at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing Smith in her law­suit. He said Fri­day that he does not plan to chal­lenge Bam­burg’s ap­point­ment.

“What we’d like to do is re­solve this and put it be­hind ev­ery­body and find any chief that meets the ba­sic qual­i­fi­ca­tions of the job,” Steel said.

Fletcher said the city had not dis­cussed ad­di­tional pay for Bam­burg in his new role at the Po­lice De­part­ment.

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