Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot mayor faces expulsion

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and Alderman Ken Williams were absent from a Monday budget meeting called to discuss redistributing property tax to pay a $50,000 subsidy to keep MEMS ambulance service in the city.

Both are Republicans (although they’re not related) and were called on the carpet at a meeting to explain to a panel of GOP leaders why they did not support partisan elections that would have given their party an advantage in Cabot, where Republican candidates fare better than Democrats.

If the GOP panel decides the two elected officials worked against the Republican Party, their party memberships could be taken away.

How that would affect future races is unclear, but both say they have done nothing that would warrant expulsion and hope the panel agrees.

“Carl Schmidt (a losing Republican candidate for city council) said that because I didn’t veto the resolution I wasn’t a good Republican and should be taken out of the party,” Mayor Williams said after he spoke to the panel Monday night.

“But I’m elected to represent 22,000 people, and my goal is never to issue a veto.”

Alderman Williams, who was complimentary of the courtesy and professionalism of the panel, said there was no willful intent on his part to work against the Republican Party.

“It’s just ridiculous that casting a vote that someone else doesn’t like is grounds for removal,” he said.

The council members who voted for non-partisan elections said national issues, such as abortion, homosexuality and gun control, have nothing to do with local government. They also said voters should get to know the candidates rather than deciding who was best for the job based on party affiliation.

A resolution requiring all candidates for office in Cabot to run as independents in 2008 passed the city council in August with a 5-2 vote over the strong objections of area Republicans who attended the meeting. Republican Aldermen Becky Lemaster and Teri Miessner voted against the resolution, but Alderman Williams voted for it, and Mayor Williams declined to veto it as Republicans requested.

The complaint against both Williamses was filed by Carl Schmidt, who was defeated by one vote during the 2006 Republican primary when he ran for Cabot City Council. Virgil Teague, who won in the primary and in the general election, has been unable to serve since he had a stroke about four months ago. Schmidt said he told the mayor that his area needs representation on the council and that he would like to serve, but that he never officially asked for Teague’s seat.

“His comment was that Virgil is strong. He’ll be back,” Schmidt said. The scuttlebutt about the complaint is that Schmidt used it as a way to get back at Williams. But Schmidt said Tuesday that he was simply looking out for other residents like himself who want to know what a candidate stands for.

“The citizens have a right to know your party affiliation,” Schmidt said.

Robert Horn, chairman of the Lonoke County Republican Committee, said he appointed Mike Freeze, Johnny Benefield and Charlie Bright to investigate Schmidt’s complaint. They alone will decide if it has merit, he said.

In recent years, the Lonoke County Republican Committee expelled Tommy Coates, who lost his race against former Cabot Mayor Joe Allman. Coates ran a newspaper ad that promoted a Democrat.