Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and Alderman Glen Brown Sr. were at the center of a dispute Tuesday over the placement of campaign signs at the county courthouse.

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and Alderman Glen Brown Sr. were at the center of a dispute Tuesday over the placement of campaign signs at the county courthouse.

Hollingsworth said that her office received a call from an upset resident informing her that there were campaign signs in the flower beds surrounding the west parking lot of the Jefferson County Courthouse. Jefferson County Board of Election Commissioners member Stu Soffer — acting in a private capacity — was also emailing about the issue Tuesday, but Hollingsworth said the tip to her office did not come from him. Soffer said that the flowerbeds are part of the city’s right-of-way and that city code prohibits the presence of political campaign signs in city rights-of-way.

"After learning that campaign signs had been placed there, we contacted [Assistant Manager] Rick Rhoden with the street department and asked him to remove any signs in that flower bed," Hollingsworth said. "Well, [Ward 3 Alderman] Glen Brown [Sr.] showed up and confronted him about removing the signs. Then I came up and he started in on me."

Hollingsworth said Glen Brown Sr. was swearing at Rhoden while Rhoden was trying to work. Glen Brown Sr. denied that he was swearing.

Hollingsworth said that she then called Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks and asked him to come to the courthouse.

"After the police got there, needless to say, the signs got picked up," Hollingsworth said.

Glen Brown Jr. — a candidate for Ward 2 Pine Bluff alderman — had several of his signs in the flower bed.

"I feel like this was an abuse of power on the mayor’s part," Glen Brown Jr. said of the sign removal. "We weren’t doing anything that wasn’t in our legal right. There were a number of campaign signs from candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and senator already there when I put my signs there. We weren’t given any warning that the signs were going to be removed.

"I really don’t understand why the mayor and the police chief came out personally for something like that," Glen Brown Jr. said.

Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown Sr. said that he received a telephone call from a friend notifying him that his son’s campaign signs were being removed.

"I think that the mayor’s actions are a violation of the right to assemble and the freedom of speech," Glen Brown Sr. said. "Anyone familiar with voting in Jefferson County knows that we assemble in front of the courthouse, and that as long as we are 100 feet away from the courthouse door, we set up campaign signs."

Glen Brown Sr. said that he believes the mayor is forbidding candidates from doing something that she herself did in the 2012 Pine Bluff mayoral election.

"Mayor Hollingsworth campaigned in front of the courthouse then, so why is she trying to stop us from doing so now?" Glen Brown Sr. said. "I want the question to be, ‘what has changed today from all of the other years,’ especially because it was allowed before."

Hollingsworth said that she did have campaign signs set up in the flower bed at the beginning of the early voting period for the November 2012 general election.

"I did put my signs up in the planter’s box on the first day of early voting but someone told us that it is against the law to have them there so we picked them up," Hollingsworth said. "We did have campaign volunteers holding signs in that area."

"I don’t take kindly to people pushing authority on me," Glen Brown Sr. said. "Because this is a free country."

Soffer said in his email to Hollingsworth that Jefferson County Judge Dutch King told him about the planters being in the city right-of-way.

"I told Stu that I thought it was in the city right-of-way and that he should check with the city," King said. "I turned it over to [Jefferson County Attorney] Jackie Harris, and we will comply with whatever the law is."