SHADY GROVE, Ark. – Despite efforts to turn the township dry, voters passed a measure keeping Shady Grove wet, allowing the Old Country Store to continue to serve alcohol on the Greene County line between Sedgwick and Bono.
However, management was tight-lipped Thursday, refusing to speak to the media. A manager said the recent stories by The Jonesboro Sun made it impossible for them to speak to any media outlets.
Following a series of stories in the Sun, Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington asked the Arkansas State Police to investigate reports of voter registration fraud or illicit activity, with suspicions raised due to several campers and trailers behind the store being modified into living quarters – and several changing voter registration to said campers to be able to vote in the election.
Several of those campers and trailers were still visibly parked on the property Thursday.
“I have received information of potential voter fraud pertaining to the current wet/dry issue being considered in the Shady Grove township of Greene County, Arkansas,” Ellington wrote. “It is my understanding that in June 2016, there were 71 registered votes residing within the township. By the time early voting began on October 25, 2016, the voter roll had increased to 103 registered voters within the township.”
One of those listed as a registered voter in the Shady Grove township was Sikeston, Missouri’s Regional Chamber of Commerce director, Barry Sellers – an Arkansas native. In a statement to the Sikeston Standard Democrat, Sellers said it was a misunderstanding.
“While working as a business, economic and political consultant in Arkansas, Florida and other states, one of my clients asked me to work on his behalf in establishing a convenience store in Arkansas,” Sellers said in the statement. “Having worked on alcohol permitting and other similar issues before, I spoke before the Alcohol Beverage Commission for this company. They received a permit and later a group proposed turning the area of the store to a non-alcohol status.”
Sellers apologized for any confusion or misunderstanding as well.
“Since I travel a lot and was working in the area more, I was offered a place to live nearby to avoid travel costs,” Sellers said. “After consulting with the Secretary of State’s Office, I moved my voter registration to that area. According to them, I did not do anything ethically, morally or legally wrong. I certainly did not intend to. I haven’t worked for them since coming to Missouri.”
No details about the potential ASP investigation have been released to the media but the question many had – about if the store would stay in business – is the one seeming to be asked by most in the nearby area.
That answer, according to management Thursday, was yes.