WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – While most elected offices in Lawrence County were decided by the end of 2018, the contest for Walnut Ridge City Attorney was not so simple.
Ethan Weeks defeated incumbent Nancy Hall by 898 votes to 680 but the election results didn’t end the debate.
Since she lost, Hall began challenging the “qualifications” of Weeks. Hall specifically claimed Weeks did not live in Walnut Ridge.
State law mandates that a candidate live in the jurisdiction of the office he or she is seeking. The Lawrence County Clerk reported Weeks’ registration was at an address on East Maple Street in Walnut Ridge. Still, Hall refused to accept this.
She admitted to The Jonesboro Sun in a November 11 report she had been driving by Weeks’ home in Walnut Ridge and leaving her campaign material – then counting the days until it was picked up. Furthermore, she employed a “friend” to take pictures of Weeks’ Walnut Ridge home when no vehicles were parked there. Hall also sent the “friend” to take photos at Weeks’ Jonesboro address, which was listed for sale prior to the election and sold in October.
In November, Weeks called it an “intrusion” into his personal life. Hall was simply upset she lost the election. This was her trying to delegitimatize his victory, he said.
Hall continued the challenge into 2019, going so far as forcing Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp to put it on the agenda for the January 21 City Council meeting. Specifically, Hall asserted that language in the law allowed the council to reject the decision of the voters and instead let her keep her job.
“The governing body shall judge the election returns and the qualifications of its own members.” Ark. Code Ann. § 14-43-501 (a)(2)(A)(ii).
Snapp reached out to the Arkansas Municipal League for clarification, he said in an e-mail to members of the press on Tuesday, Jan. 15. This is their reply:
Ark. Code Ann. § 14-43-501 (a)(2)(A)(ii). This provides in part “The governing body shall judge the election returns and the qualifications of its own members.” My reading of the statute is that it clearly only applies to city council election results and city council qualifications. I will add, it would be odd to give the city council power over the election of other elected officials, ultimately rendering the council final authority on any position in a municipality. – Arkansas Municipal League statement
Hall did not respond to requests for comment made by NEA Report.
However, something changed in Hall’s effort last week. City sources tell this reporter Hall began telling people she would not be attending the Walnut Ridge council meeting, effectively abandoning her effort to keep her job despite losing the election.
So, what changed one week prior to Tuesday, January 15?
On January 8, Hall was appointed the Hoxie Civil City Attorney. Unlike Walnut Ridge, the Hoxie job is an appointed position.
Walnut Ridge sources indicate she couldn’t have dropped the matter at a better time, since they viewed it as a “non-issue” and were likely to decide against Hall’s will. One person said they couldn’t even understand her challenge.
“This is not about getting the job for another four years,” Hall told The Sun in November. “It’s about how I will feel if I do nothing and allow our democratic process to be compromised.”