Before we go too far, let me state all of the following for the record: I voted for Michael Lincoln in 2006 and again in 2008.
When his opponent in 2006 complained about losing, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Citizen defending Judge Lincoln. I am in no way opposed to the man personally, but he began making policy related decisions in 2009 that were questionable at best and contemptible in some instances, and in 2010 I voted against him.
Let’s look at some of the policy decisions that Judge Lincoln has made:
In 2009 & 2010, Judge Lincoln supported Belinda LaForce’s efforts to impose an A&P tax and A&P commission on the city of Searcy without voter approval. Judge Lincoln has recently complained about city taxes being terrible because county residents pay them while only the city gets to spend the money. This is a different tune than the one he sang just two short years ago.
Judge Lincoln’s support of a tax in the city of Searcy was so strong that when a very peaceful TEA party protest was held at the courthouse square in Searcy on April 5, 2010 (attended by our current Lieutenant Governor as well as several other candidates for statewide offices), Judge Lincoln called both the Searcy police and the White County Sheriff’s office and attempted to convince them to remove the protestors. Continue reading
We first broke the news of White County JP Bud Osborn’s arrest for drunk driving back at Thanksgiving last fall. Then the paper followed our lead and picked up on it. It quickly became statewide news.
Then Osborn told the paper he ‘wasn’t highly intoxicated,’ maintaining that he was innocent.
And Judge Lincoln said he needed ‘more information’ before making a comment, and he ‘hoped all county officials would adhere to the law.’ He also ‘wasn’t sure’ if Osborn’s actions could lead to removal from office.
Then, when county officials were incredibly hesitant to call for Osborn’s resignation, I did.
Osborn told the paper on December 12, 2011 “I’m not guilty.” He reiterated that he would not resign, and Judge Lincoln remained silent. His primary opponent, Bill Haynie, called on Osborn to vacate his position.
Three JPs–Ed Land, Kenneth Horton, & Bobby Quattlebaum–said Osborn was ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and wouldn’t call for his resignation until after his hearing on January 5th.
January 5th came and Osborn plead ‘not guilty.’ His attorney said his client ‘may or may not have a case.’
And now, we know the answer was ‘may not.’
According to the paper, Osborn plead guilty at a hearing this week. His attorney, Mark Derrick, said he ‘had to enter a plea of not guilty in order to have time to look at the police reports and the case file.’ His attorney also says that Osborn knew he was guilty all along:
“He said he had some words with the people where he was at that day and then he got upset and left,” Derrick said. “He said, ‘I knew better. I screwed up. That’s it. I’ll admit to it.’”
So now that ‘we have more information,’ Judge Lincoln is going to stand up and lead, right? He’s going to call for Osborn’s resignation or removal from the court for breaking the law, right? Because Judge Lincoln believes in the rule of law, right?
Wrong. Lincoln has declined, once again, to call for Osborn’s removal from the court, even after Osborn has now been convicted, punting the issue to the quorum court:
“I guess we’ll wait to see what the Quorum Court’s reaction will be.”
Oh, how bold!
Now, Lincoln will tell you, “well, the court or the district court are the only ones that can remove him from office.’ But this doesn’t stop Lincoln from putting pressure on them–which he’s always happy to do when it involves a political favor–or from calling on Osborn to resign.
A county official has been convicted of a crime that could’ve resulted in a tragic death and Judge Lincoln still says “we’ll just have to wait and see what happens!” This is beyond a lack of leadership–this is just bad politics. I don’t want to give the judge any free campaign advice here, but good grief. If there was ever a time to take a stand for ethical, lawful government and defend the integrity of the county government, THIS IS IT. But Judge Lincoln once again fails to lead. He fails to stand up for integrity, something he was once thought to represent.
It’s time for the voters of White County to demand ethical conduct & leadership from their elected officials. Early voting starts Monday.
I attended the debate Monday night between Judge Michael Lincoln and his opponent, businessman Bill Haynie. There were lots of people in the crowd (I would estimate it as being in the hundreds), and the event itself was well run. I took lots of notes (five and a half pages type written). With that being said, I thought I’d share my impressions and hand out some letter grades.
The crowd was polite and attentive. It was larger than I expected and was full of folks who were clearly interested in the process. Several individuals had signs protesting against Randall Homsley of Higginson and wanting to know why the county prosecutor wasn’t doing anything about his alleged misbehavior. It’s great to see people getting involved in the process.
Overall grade: A (if the crowd had been larger I’d have given them an A+)
The Debate itself:
The debate was in a fair format and even started (almost) on time. The moderator did a good job of keeping things moving, and on the one occasion when the candidates got off topic (Judge Lincoln continuing the discussion of question five instead of answering question six), he got them back on topic smoothly and quickly enough. Question ten seemed open ended and unnecessary (and a waste of an opportunity) as both candidates essentially had the opportunity to address the “biggest problem facing the county” in their opening and closing statements. It would have been nice to see something else there.
Overall grade: B
Judge Lincoln repeatedly hammered home the concept of road improvements and bridge improvements that have occurred on his watch. His opening statement, his closing statement, and his responses to at least four of the ten questions discussed roads and bridges. He attempted to deflect attention from the OEM scandal by declaring that because “we have nothing missing from the county” we have no theft. He stated that complete restitution had been made and that this absolves the party involved from any wrongdoing. He was also asked specifically if he would do anything differently with regards to his promotion of the countywide sales tax before the election last fall. His response was twofold. The first part was to imply that the tax election was actually brought about by actions of governor Mike Beebe and former Searcy mayor Belinda LaForce. His second answer was that he stood by all of his actions and wouldn’t do anything differently.
In my opinion, the biggest flaw in any of Judge Lincoln’s positions was his assertion that the current system of county government has “so much accountability” and transparency that it is a “beautiful system”. He asserts that any citizen of the county can go to quorum court meetings (what percentage of the county’s approximately 80,000 residents could fit into their meeting room?) and that any citizen can go to the clerk’s office and request to see any document.
Overall grade: C (he met expectations and performed adequately)
Mr. Haynie also repeatedly discussed roads and bridges, touting equitable treatment for all citizens in the paving program. He emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in county government more than his opponent did, and cited specific instances where FOI requests were met with responses indicating that the records requested had been destroyed accidentally. He made several excellent points regarding the need to post all agendas, budgets, expenditures, and upcoming ordinances online and free to the public and stating that if elected he would do so.
When Judge Lincoln said (regarding the allegations of employee misbehavior) “Thank God we live in a country where it is innocent until proven guilty”, Mr. Haynie missed out on the opportunity to point out that our government employees should be held to a higher standard of behavior in their official capacities, not the lowest standard of behavior available.
He also declined to point out that Judge Lincoln’s assertion that he wouldn’t do anything different with regards to the tax election meant that Judge Lincoln was willing to repeatedly violate the law (as stated by the Arkansas Ethics Commission) in pursuit of a proven losing strategy.
Overall grade: B- (he did better than his opponent but missed multiple clear opportunities to go after his opponent’s missteps)
Scott Biddle is formerly chairman of Searcy Friends of the Voters & a guest contributor to The Arkansas Patriot.
Need to update a story from yesterday: the White County Personnel & Public Safety committee voted unanimously to leave the county elections division under the county clerk’s supervision, rather than consolidating the division under the county judge’s office.
JP Cameron Cooper tells the group “Citizens for Responsible Government in White County,”
The committee voted unanimously that the Election Coordinator should be under the County Clerk’s supervision. For the record, the County Judge did specifically state that he had no interest in supervising the Election Coordinator or having anything to do with that position.
This all started when the County Clerk had suggested (to the Budget Committee) a raise for the Election Coordinator to bring her pay up to be more in line with what Chief Deputies make. The Budget Committee raised the question of which elected official the Coordinator worked for as reportedly there had been some confusion on the issue, and they referred the question to the Personnel Committee for clarification.
Meeting turned out well and the Coordinator absolutely works under the supervision of the County Clerk.
One name that is notably absent from the list of White County JP candidates: Bud(weiser) Osborn of District 12.
I broke the story that Osborn had been arrested on Thanksgiving Day of last year. He was cited for driving left of center, driving off a marked road, and driving while intoxicated. The story quickly became statewide news.
Then Osborn told the paper he wasn’t that drunk.
Then he plead ‘not guilty’ at a hearing in January. (He is scheduled to appear in court in May)
Not only is Osborn not seeking re-election, but the Democrats have failed to field a candidate in his stead. Former Republican JP Joel Pritchett of Searcy will retake the seat unopposed. Mr. Pritchett currently serves as the chairman of the White County Republican committee.
Retiring isn’t quite the same as resigning, but it’s close. Osborn’s retirement is a testament to the ability of average citizens, through social media & hard work, to expose inappropriate behavior by elected officials–and hold them accountable. Had I not received an anonymous tip & done my due diligence, Mr. Osborn would likely still be on the court.
We can make a difference. We are making a difference. And I like to think that the champion of transparent government, Andrew Breitbart would be proud.
For the first time in history, there will be a Republican challenger in every Justice of the Peace district in White County.
Greg Niblock filled the final spot when he filed this morning as a candidate for District 8, a seat currently held by incumbent Waylon Heathscott. Heathscott will also face a primary challenge in May from former JP Boss Vaughn.
7 of the 8 incumbent Republican JPs will be unopposed:
- Bobby Burns, District 2
- Cameron Cooper, District 3
- Allen King, District 4
- Shane Sellers, District 6
- Mike Cleveland, District 9
- Bobby Quattlebaum, District 10
- Ron Gibbs, District 13
1 Republican JP, Ed Land of District 11 is being primaried by David Schoenberger.
All of the Democrat JP incumbents are facing challengers.
The county judge’s race will be decided in the GOP primary, as Mike Lincoln faces a challenge from Bill Haynie, but no Democrat filed for the seat.
Likewise, the Democrats did not field a candidate for county clerk. That race will be between three Republicans: Randall Young, Brittney Sellers-Hawkins, & Cheryl Evans.
Democrats also failed to field a candidate against incumbent Republicans Sheriff Ricky Shourd, Circuit Clerk Tami King, Coroner David Powell, and Treasurer Janet Hibbitts.
And get this: the incumbent Tax Assessor Debra Lang has switched to the GOP, leaving Democrat Tax Collector Sue Liles as the lone county-wide elected Democrat.
Who said the GOP base isn’t energized?
See the full candidate list here.
The Personnel & Public Safety committee of the White County Quorum Court will meeting tonight. The full agenda has not been released, even to some of the JPs, but I am told that at least one issue for discussion will be moving the elections department of the county under the judge’s office. It is currently under the county clerk’s office.
Justice of the Peace Cameron Cooper (R-Rose Bud) who chairs the committee told me just moments ago that Arkansas Attorney General opinions have said that the elections division does technically belong under the county judge’s office, but the judge can delegate that position to another department. He said the issue is being discussed because questions have been raised about who the county election coordinator answers to regarding time sheets, pay raises, etc.
After speaking with some other members of the court this afternoon, it doesn’t appear there will be enough votes to move the elections division anywhere. We should know for sure after tonight’s meeting.
I’ll keep you posted.