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.
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.