Sheriff Bruce Pennington at his press conference Monday. (Photo: Steve Payne, THV 11)
SALINE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - An online petition is urging state officials to remove Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington from office.
"The question is does it really have any legal effect and the answer to that is no," said UALR Law Professor Felicia Epps.
Epps said a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Arkansas stature 95-293 states: "(2) Does Amendment 55 permit a county, acting through its quorum court, to provide for recall by petition of county elected officials? ANSWER: No."
The petition states that Pennington is in violation of Article 5, Section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution, which is written as follows, according to Ballotpedia.org:
No person hereafter convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery or other infamous crime, shall be eligible to the General Assembly or capable of holding any office of trust or profit in this State.
The petition also accuses Pennington of having a long history of driving drunk, torturing inmates, and having a history of hiring officers that have previously been fired for drug use. The screen name of the author who penned the petition is "KJ H", of Hensley, Ark.
So far around 200 people have signed the petition on Change.org. Sheriff Pennington has been under scrutiny since being arrested earlier this month at Denton's Trotline in Benton.
He is charged with public intoxication and refusal to submit to arrest.
During a press conference a day after his arrest, Pennington said he would not resign.
The following is dialog from an interview THV 11's Daniel Wilkerson conducted with Sheriff Pennington on July 19:
Daniel Wilkerson: Sheriff, hey look, just wanted to ... I'm back on now and have the recorder going here. This petition has been put online to try to get you out of office. What do you say to that?
Pennington: Well, I was advised, I guess the night before last by an individual friend who contacted me in reference to it and one of the individuals who is doing this, who I know - not personally, but I know that this individual supported a person that I ran against in the primary of last year - who has never supported me and so I wasn't surprised.
Pennington: You know, we live in America and you know people can do what they want. I'll say this much, I've had overwhelming support from people in Saline County that are supporting me. And so, you'll always have naysayers and people that are against you, and, you know, it is what it is.
Wilkerson: Sure. Do you think that things have gone to the point with this incident where you can still effectively serve the community in this capacity?
Pennington: Certainly. You know, what occurs in someone's personal life has nothing to do with their professional life. I'm running the sheriff's office in the same effective manor prior to that incident. You know, so yes, things are very effective. The relationship I have with other county officials in quorum court is still the same as it was. You know, certainly they were disappointed, as well as I was disappointed in myself. But as far as the business side of things, things are going well.
Wilkerson: Talk to me about this, Sheriff: I want to ask your point blankly - Do you have a drinking problem?
Pennington: No sir, I do not, I do not, emphatically no. You know, what happened was, earlier this year, I had torn my Achilles tendon and had surgery on it. and so that day in question, I worked in the yard all day, hadn't had anything to eat, and once I had cleaned up, I had taken a prescribed pain pill because my Achilles tendon was really hurting. And, as we all know, umm, you have a drink or two on an empty stomach with a pain pill, that does not make good.
Wilkerson: Sure. Now I've heard there's some video from that night that's going to be pretty disturbing once it comes out. Do you know about that video?
Pennington: No sir, I do not.
Wilkerson: Umm, do you think that ... What do you remember from that night?
Pennington: I remember stopping by there, going to my car, calling my nephew to come get me. I was sitting in my car; I wasn't outside being disorderly or causing a scene or anything. I was just waiting for a ride.
Wilkerson: Do you think that you should have been given a DUI that night?
Pennington: No way by law that I could've been given a DUI. The keys were not in the ignition. I had, you know, that's the reason I had called someone to come get me, because I was not going to put myself or the public in jeopardy by operating a vehicle.
Wilkerson: Now the report from the officer that night said that you were pretty insistent on driving home.
Pennington: No sir, I don't recall that. You know, if I'd been insistent on driving home, when I got to my vehicle, living basically two miles from where I was sitting, I could've been at home prior to the Benton Police Department ever arriving on scene. But no, I wasn't intent on driving.
Wilkerson: Now if you were the officer or deputy handling that situation that day, how would you have handled it?
Pennington: Exactly the way the officer did.
Wilkerson: Okay, is there any ... talk to me about any scenarios where you will resign from office.
Pennington: I will not resign.
Wilkerson: Okay, good enough, Sheriff, I sure appreciate it.
Pennington: Alright man.
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