Rep. Elect Fred Smith (Democrat from either Crawfordsville or Walls, Mississippi) is in a pickle. A legislative audit of the Dermott School District (see audit report page 25-26 here) revealed that duplicate payments of $29,500 were made to Smith and to Save Our Kids, an organization run by Smith.
Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Deen filed charges of theft in a Chicot County Circuit Court due to the fact that Smith failed to take â€œreasonable measures to restore the property to the party entitled to it.â€ Circuit Judge Sam Pope held a bench trial on November 22 but has not yet issued a ruling.
Meanwhile, Willie Gammon, the write-in candidate who lost to Smith, has filed a compliant with Arkansas State Claims Commission saying that Smith is not a resident of state representative district 54. Helping his claim is the fact that the court filing lists Smithâ€™s home address as Walls, Mississippi (just south of Memphis) where by all appearances he lives with his wife.
In a very odd interview with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Smith professes his innocence on all the charges. He claims he does not know anything about the legal charges, in spite of the fact that the court records indicate he was arrested on Sept. 27, 2009 and appeared in court in November 2009. He said he has always lived in Crawfordsville and just travels back and forth to Walls, Mississippi where his wife owns a home.
Robbing from public schools and hiding behind an organization thatâ€™s supposed to help kids is the lowest of the low and, if I understand the law correctly (and at nearly two in the morning itâ€™s a legitimate possibility that I might get it wrong) the state legislature is well within its legal rights to not seat Smith, nor should they. If they do, it will be a grave mistake at a time when Arkansas Democrats can ill afford to make one. Will it complicate things for Democrats legislatively? No. Someone with Smithâ€™s track record could never be trusted as a reliable vote anyway and even if that werenâ€™t the case Smithâ€™s constituents shouldnâ€™t have to endure his tenure for the sake of politics.
That said, removing Smith presents the opportunity for us to find a strong, progressive, and ethical candidate to fill that seat, either in a potential special election or in a primary in 2012 should worst come to worst and Smith be seated.