A former member of the Jefferson County Election Commission, who resigned in January came back Monday but he was not welcomed with open arms by the other commissioners.
Theodis “Ted” Davis, who was the Democratic Party representative on the three-member commission until he resigned Jan. 16, was sworn into office by Jefferson County Clerk Shawndra Taggart on Jan. 27 at the request of Patricia Royal Johnson, who is the interim chairperson of the Jefferson County Democratic Central Committee.
Davis was seated for the meeting but the two other commissioners, Stu Soffer and Mike Adam, who are both Republicans, contended that Davis had been improperly selected to return to the commission and they would not conduct any votes requiring a unanimous vote until Davis was elected in the proper manner.
In a letter to Taggart, Johnson said the Executive Committee of the Democratic Central Committee, “by unanimous vote” had requested Davis to go back to the election commission as the Democratic Party’s elected representative and he had consented to do so.
However, Soffer contended that Arkansas Election Law requires that election commission members be elected by the entire county committee, not just the executive committee and asked the Taggart to revoke Davis’ oath. In an email to Soffer later Monday, Chief Deputy Clerk Tiffany Lowery said that after speaking with the county attorney, Taggart was advised that rescinding Davis’ oath of office was not necessary.
While Johnson said at the meeting that the County Committee did not accept Davis’ resignation, Commission Chairman Adam said the commission did.
“He resigned, we accepted it and he can’t go back on without being reelected,” Adam said.
To back up that argument, Soffer send an email to Johnson, Taggart, Lowery and numerous others and said that the director of the state board of election commissioners, Daniel Shults, had agreed that he (Soffer) and Adam were technically correct in their assertions about Davis needing to be elected by the entire county committee, not just the executive committee.
Tempers flared frequently during the more than one hour meeting between members of the commission and a number of current and former elected officials, all Democrats, who attended to support Davis. They included former Mayor Carl Redus Jr., current City Council Member Ivan Whitfield, former councilmen Glen Brown Jr., and George Stepps, who County Judge Gerald Robinson has named Election Coordinator, Current Jefferson County Justices of the Peace Alfred Carroll and Johnson., who is also a former Jefferson County Clerk. Robinson was also in attendance.
It got so bad that at one point, Adam called a recess while law enforcement officers were called. Initially, a Pine Bluff Police officer showed up but he left after being told the election commission office was a county building. The officer was replaced by two Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputies.
The agenda includes what were called “Spurious allegations in commissioner’s (Davis) letter of resignation.
That letter, a copy of which was furnished to The Commercial, was addressed To Whom It May Concern and said, among other things, “…at this time, it is critical that you, as well as my predecessor fully comprehend that a culture of corruption, racism, hostility and blatantly self-serving agendas are currently in existence on this commission, which has significantly determined my decision to resign. I find the environment to be toxic, dangerously threatening and intimidating. The current election commission has intentionally adopted a policy of unlimited authority, which has clearly led to an abuse of power.”
In a statement dated Monday, Adam, speaking not only himself but for Sofffer “categorically deny the false and libelous allegations made by Commissioner Davis in his Jan. 16 letter of resignation. These allegations mirror the falsehood’s Mr. Davis has been spreading throughout the community with the intent of harming the good names, reputation and official standing of Commissioner Soffer and myself.”
Adam went on to say that he and Sofffer “have worked diligently during my tenure to correct the mess Mr. Davis left behind when his term as chairman ended. (Davis served as election commission chairman when the state Democratic Party controlled a majority of the constitutional offices in the Arkansas) He said he and Soffer believe Davis’ references to abuse of power and culture of corruption are libelous and he encouraged Davis to “provide the prosecutor all evidence of corruption and provide the Arkansas Ethics Commission all evidence of abuse of power.”
He encouraged Davis, who he said he believed would be returning to the commission “to become a participative and contributing member and control his behavior at meetings. We also expect Mr. Davis to follow the rules of order and stop interrupting other commissioners and stop making other spurious noises and utterances when someone else has the floor.”
Frequent attempts by Davis to speak as the meeting was drawing to a close were rebuffed by Adams who told Davis to “Stop intruppting us. I am speaking” to which Davis replied “This is not a plantation. I am asking for time.”