A drug ring based in Pine Bluff has been hit with federal and state charges being filed against 34 individuals, with many of them arrested early Thursday morning, authorities announced.
A federal grand jury returned nine separate indictments against two dozen individuals in connection with a major cocaine distribution network that included Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Stuttgart, Humphrey, Altheimer and Dumas. Another 10 face delivery of cocaine charges in state courts.
The undercover investigation, which was launched in 2009, targeted a criminal organization responsible for distributing three to four kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine monthly in central and Southeast Arkansas.
Some 100 municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement officers hit the streets in Pine Bluff, Altheimer and Little Rock to kick off the arrests. Armed with search warrants, police seized a substantial number of weapons at a warehouse in Pine Bluff.
When drug dealers and weapons are removed from our streets, it is time to celebrate. Disrupting the drug traffic in our communities will have an impact on other crimes.
We could not help but notice that none of the 34 was charged with singing too loud in a church choir.
Communication problems continue to plague government entities in Southeast Arkansas. Let us count the ways:
– The Pine Bluff School Board has demanded reimbursement of most of the $10,000 issued to Superintendent Jerry O. Payne as part of his employment contract. It was a demand, not a request, for Payne to produce a cashier’s check payable to the district for $9,446.97 on Tuesday.
The board contended only $553.03 of the original $10,000 provided to Payne for relocating from Louisiana to Pine Bluff constituted a legitimate moving expense. We’re not sure how one could move from Louisiana to Pine Bluff on five hundred bucks, but there you go.
– Pine Bluff Assistant Chief of Police Ivan Whitfield was returned to duty Monday after a special meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council. Whitfield, a veteran of the department for nearly 30 years, was fired four days earlier by Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones.
The Pine Bluff City Council will consider a proposal Tuesday that would ask the mayor to investigate hiring a consultant to evaluate the police department’s management practices and policies. We could not help but wonder if the aldermen have reconsidered their decision to abolish the Civil Service Commission last year.
– Pamela Barley-Gibson was appointed Gould’s recorder-treasurer Tuesday by a two-thirds majority of the city council. Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. vetoed the appointment for the third time the next day.
The first two vetoes were overridden by the two-thirds vote of the municipality’s aldermen, as required by state law. We couldn’t find legal basis for Nash’s veto of the council’s latest appointment.
The law allows one veto on a topic, but not three.
– We can’t ignore our state and federal governments when it comes to counting the ways not to communicate effectively. And timely.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is seeking $32,106.76 for an overpayment of federal funds to Gould following the winter storm of 2000. Yes, 12 years ago, said the letter, which was dated Jan. 26, 2012.
It seems the state is “responsible for managing the return of these funds” to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Gould received $97,126 from FEMA in a grant for “debris removal and other damages.”
A “closeout audit” determined the municipality was only eligible for $65,018.24, resulting in the overpayment. We can only suspect they don’t get in a big hurry with the audits.
Nash had reason to voice some surprise over the letter. He said the municipality received some $60,000 recently from FEMA in disaster-aid monies to repair damage from flooding last year.