It’s been a rich week for political controversy in Saline County, where Sheriff Bruce Pennington continues to insist he not only won’t resign, but will seek re-election and claims broad forgiveness for his guilty plea to being drunk and resisting Benton police arrest at a nightclub.
Pennington was once a prize recruit of the Republican Party. Local Republicans called on him to resign yesterday. Still silent on the matter is the most famous Saline County Republican, state Party Chair Doyle Webb.
Further developments: A sheriff’s patrol car has gone missing. A probe is underway. KATV raised questions about Pennington charges of personal expenses to his campaign account. He claims the only money in the account came from him, so he was spending his own money. My seat-of-the-pants legal opinion is that, even if true, campaign money can’t be used for personal expenses. See Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who’s busily amending his own campaign report for doing just such a thing.
Turns out Pennington charged a trip to the Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City, La., the same week he has said he went into rehab for a drinking problem. He explained that the trip preceded his rehab stint and was taken because his wife likes to stay in Bossier while visiting a relative in Longview, Texas, some 60 miles or so to the west.
Prosecutor Ken Casady has floated the idea that a little-used bit of the Constitution that allows removal of county officials for criminal activity might be a tool to oust Pennington.
Are these misdemeanors qualifying crimes? A circuit court and then the Arkansas Supreme Court could decide, probably not long before the end of his current term if he resisted. I don’t think recall is possible for sheriffs in Arkansas, by the way. There’s limited recall for some city officials and suburban improvement district officials.
This IS an example of why keeping county officials at two-year terms might not be a bad idea. Sheriffs have pushed for four-year terms.