December 10, 2010 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
Greenland- Questions raised just one day after last week’s run-off election for Greenland’s last city council seat have resulted in the the election and its winner being deemed invalid after it was learned that the winner, Matt Partain, did not live in Greenland’s Ward 4.
Ironically, doubt about whether Partain lived within Ward 4 was brought to light by Tom Hendricks who was appointed to the council seat Partain was vying for when Mark Myers resigned in August after he moved out of Ward 4.
“He worked the election and raised the question last Wednesday,” said Danny Wright, who serves as the attorney for the City of Greenland.
Wright said he met on Monday, immediately following Thanksgiving weekend, with Mayor John Gray, Mayor-Elect Bill Groom, and City Clerk Donna Cheevers.
“The election is void. He did not legally run. He cannot serve,” said Wright who indicated Partain lives in Ward 2.
“The guy across the street lives in Ward 4.”
“When you have oddly drawn districts, mistakes can happen,” said Gray. “It’s odd it didn’t get caught before the election.”
Wright said that technically it is the responsibility of the candidate running for office to know what ward they live in. He said that the candidate’s ward is usually verified by the city. Two calls to Partain’s home went unanswered on Monday evening.
“It’s just a sad mistake. It doesn’t do any good to shift blame, but hopefully it’s something that can be learned from,” said Wright.
According to Wright, the election itself is invalid, preventing Partain’s opponent, Brenda Reynolds, from taking the seat as well. In the Nov. 22 run-off election, Partain earned 75 percent of the vote, although in the general election on Nov. 2, only five votes separated the two candidates in a three way race that also included Johney Boles.
Reynolds said she was disappointed to learn the election ended this way. She said she felt that Partain had received bad advice and information from city officials that were pushing to get him elected. Reynolds said she was still interested in being considered for the appointment, but was uncertain if she’d be selected.
“They (city officials) don’t want me on the council. I speak up. I don’t let unethical or illegal procedures fly,” she said.
Wright said he consulted with the Arkansas Secretary of State and the Arkansas Municipal League, and advised the City of Greenland according to Article 19, Section 5 of the Arkansas State Constitution which specifies that an officer shall continue in office after the expiration of their official term until a successor is elected and qualified.
“Since a successor won’t be elected and qualified, he (Hendricks) could continue to hold over until the next election,” said Wright. The next election would be in two years.
Mayor Elect Bill Groom said he’d spoken to Hendricks following the meeting with Wright.
“He indicated he’d go down on Wednesday (to Greenland City Hall to resign)…he’d serve until the end of the calendar year. He has no intent to go on,” said Groom.
Gray said that Hendricks had originally agreed to serve in Myers’ position until the end of the year. He said Hendricks was appointed as a neutral party in an effort to not give an edge to Boles or to Reynolds who had both expressed interest in the position and had both announced they would run for the seat in the November election. In fact, Greenland City Council appointed Boles to the seat at their Aug. 10 meeting before Gray vetoed his own vote and asked the council to reconsider Boles’ appointment to level the playing field. The council then appointed Hendricks to fill the position in a special meeting one week later.
Groom said anyone living in Ward 4 that is interested in the position can present themselves as a candidate at the Jan. 10 city council meeting.