Circuit Judge Alice Gray
ruled today that Jeff Herweg
is likely to lose a lawsuit contesting his eligibility to serve as Jacksonville police chief.
She issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits him from serving in the position and prohibiting the city from paying him his $81,600 salary as police chief, but she said the city was free to continue to employ him as a police officer. Robert Bamburg
, the city attorney, told the judge he would appeal and also ask the Supreme Court for a stay of the restraining order so that Herweg might continue to be chief.
A key issue is whether the constitutional provision that prohibits service in public office for people convicted of "infamous crimes" applies to appointed as well as elected offices.
Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher
hired Herweg in March despite his having been convicted of giving a false report to a police officer about a 2000 auto accident in a Texas city where he was a police officer.
He served three days in jail.
, a member of the Jacksonville City Council, sued saying his record amounted to an "infamous crime." a reason given in the Arkansas Constitution for a prohibition on holding public office. The suit contends that police chief is a position of public trust and public office within the meaning of the Constitution, though Alex Gray, an attorney for Smith, said that's an issue without clear appellate court precedent. Judge Gray (no relation) found that Smith would likely prevail on the lawsuit.
The case is scheduled for trial in three months,
but is most likely to be resolved on summary motions. One issue remaining is a request for repayment of money Herweg has been paid since he was hired, over the objections of local police officers and some others. The mayor said he believed in Herweg's credibility.
The suit named the mayor, city clerk
and city as defendants.