Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

TOP STORY >>Prosecutor won't indict code officer

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain says Cabot police found no criminal activity during a three-week investigation into complaints that a code enforcement officer had illegally removed property from vacated houses.

McCastlain said the file she received from the police last week contained several hundred pages, which she will review, but not right now. She said the police told her they found evidence of civil violations that could be the basis of lawsuits, but no evidence that would support criminal charges.

Although the investigating officer told The Leader when he sent the file to McCastlain that he had not recommended charges but would instead leave that decision entirely to her. McCastlain said, “Cabot recommended no charges.” The subject of the investigation was Jack McNally, a friend of Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and his campaign manager when he ran for mayor.

The investigation started after Alderman Odis Waymack filed a freedom of information request with the city for all paperwork dealing with McNally. Waymack, who is known for being a stickler for the letter of the law, was looking for information about a boat and car that he had heard McNally had removed from a vacant house on St. John’s Street. Instead, what he found was a July police report about McNally allegedly cleaning out the fenced backyard of a house on Chad Court (taking lawnmowers, barbeque grills and a child’s swing set) so the tall grass could be mowed.

Cabot has an ordinance against tall grass and clutter but there are no provisions in the ordinance for hauling off anyone’s possessions so the grass can be mowed. Police Chief Jackie Davis said he was not aware of the incident report until Waymack’s freedom of information request. Also, among the paperwork Waymack received was a statement from McNally about an earlier incident dated March 15, 2005, in which McNally said he “removed two chainsaws from the bed of a white pickup truck parked in a parking lot on Glenwood in Cabot.”

Police Chief Jackie Davis said that case was closed because the victim, who reported the chainsaws stolen, would not come back to the station to sign the complaint. Waymack, who learned Tuesday from The Leader that the police were recommending that criminal charges not be filed against McNally, said he was surprised and disappointed.

“The laws are not as important in Cabot and Lonoke County as who you know,” Waymack said. “From Brenda’s Portable Toilets dumping into Cabot’s sewer, West Tree Service using the old city dump to illegally dump brush and chips, to code enforcement officers taking items including vehicles from people’s property without proper authority, it’s all about who you know.”

Stumbaugh said he has purposely steered clear of the investigation so the integrity of the police department could not be questioned because of his relationship with McNally. He told the chief to conduct the investigation as he would any other, he said, adding that he would never stand in the way of a police investigation regardless of who was being investigated.
“I think if Mr. Waymack wants to make that statement, then public opinion of him that is already at an all-time low will fall even lower,” the mayor said.

He called his police department “top of the line.” After the investigation started, the owners of the boat and car came forward to report to police that they had been taken. That report should be included in the file McCastlain has received from Cabot police. Also included should be information that Waymack provided police about McNally hiring several residential yards mowed without the proper documentation that the owners had been notified that the yards were overgrown.

Waymack said he believes the unauthorized yard work constitutes fraud and he wants McCastlain to review the case file soon.