JONESBORO, Ark. – On Monday, the county judge seeking to be Jonesboro’s next mayor spoke to NEA Report about a report suggesting he was ineligible to seek a different civil office during his current elected term.
“I knew this was an issue before I announced,” Day said. “I had reached out to several attorneys and gotten opinions about what is issue is and what does it mean. I’ve been told this thing won’t stand up in court. If you really read that amendment, what it says is that I can’t run for any office while I’m county judge – meaning I can’t even run for reelection or any other county official could run for reelection. It’s just poorly written and will need to be scrutinized in court – if someone wants to go that route with it.”
A person elected or appointed to any of the following county offices shall not, during the term for which he or she has been elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in this state:
(1) County judge;
(2) Justice of the peace;
(4) Circuit clerk;
(5) County clerk;
(9) County surveyor; or
(10) Collector of taxes.
The wording could be interpreted to mean an elected county official might not be eligible to win an election while their current term is active. As Day suggested, this would prohibit any of the above offices from running for reelection.
But it could also be interpreted as preventing one of the aforementioned elected office holder’s from running for a different office during their original term. Voters in Arkansas seemed to be of the impression that this was what the law was intended for, as the wording on the ballot reflected the intent to prohibit from seeking a different office:
A “yes” vote supported increasing the term lengths for elected county judges, county court clerks, and county surveyors from two years to four years and prohibiting certain elected county officials from being appointed or elected to a different civil office during their term.
A “no” vote opposed this proposal, keeping two-year term lengths for county judges, court clerks, and surveyors.
Issue 1 passed 70.22% to 29.78%. The issue, by coincidence, was sponsored by one of Craighead County’s State Representatives: Republican Jack Ladymann of District 59.
A summary in 2016 of Issue 1 by the University of Arkansas defined it as proposing the following:
- If county officials had four-year terms, they could initiate some of their own ideas and see them through, especially when it comes to technology.
- It would provide much needed ethics reforms by preventing county-level office holders from being appointed or elected to any civil office. This prevents those charged with the public trust from having a divided focus.
- It would save money on the printing of ballots to leave off unopposed candidates.
- The amendment takes all the gray area out of the definition of the phrase “infamous crime” and gives the courts and prosecutors more guidance so that crimes not fitting the definition are not prosecuted
Day said it seemed like a First Amendment (Bill of Rights) issue. The legality of a state constitutional amendment can only be challenged in federal court. For that to happen, someone would first need to file lawsuit.
“You’d think that the people get to decide who they want to represent them,” Day said.
Day said he has a great job and loves serving Craighead County. He said so many had approached him to serve as mayor that he felt like he should provide that to the City of Jonesboro.
“Mayor is a good platform to point the direction of the community,” Day said. “That’s why we’re looking at it and kind of feel like God is leading us in this direction.”
Day said he believes that someone on the local level is “pushing this for political gains.”