GOULD — Gould Recorder-Treasurer Pam Barley Gibson said Monday she was frustrated because Simmons First National Bank in Pine Bluff has "frozen" all of the cash-strapped city's checking accounts.
GOULD — Gould Recorder-Treasurer Pam Barley Gibson said Monday she was frustrated because Simmons First National Bank in Pine Bluff has “frozen” all of the cash-strapped city’s checking accounts.
“We’re talking about more than one account,” Gibson said. “Not CDs, these are checking accounts.”
Gibson said Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. went to the bank “raising cane” because he was denied access to the accounts. Gibson said account numbers were changed “to keep (Nash) from withdrawing money illegally.”
On Tuesday, Nash said he wasn’t ready to comment.
“There will be a time when I will be able to comment, but not at this time because I have pertinent information that I have turned over, so I can’t really comment,” Nash said.
Marty Casteel, executive vice president of Simmons First, told a reporter Tuesday he couldn’t comment on someone else’s account, but the bank’s attorneys were looking into the matter regarding Gould.
“I can’t comment on the accounts to you because you’re not an authorized signer on the account,” Casteel said. “I’m not going to comment on anything (Gibson) may have said or anyone else. We are dealing with it. We are dealing with the circumstances surrounding the turmoil that’s been widely reported concerning Gould. I think we now have a solution. We have asked our attorneys to sort through this event and I think we have a solution. And I have not communicated that solution to anyone but I really can’t comment on it because it is a private matter between a bank customer (and the bank).”
Nash was recently charged with two counts of nonfeasance in office because Nash allegedly, on Feb. 15, 2012, “unlawfully, willfully and knowingly” authorized payments from the city of Gould’s General Fund and the City of Gould Disaster Fund in violation of a city ordinance that prohibits him from spending more than $100 without council authorization.
The ordinance, which was passed by the Gould City Council in the spring of 2011, prohibited the mayor from opening any checking or other financial accounts on behalf of the city of Gould and prohibited him from writing and signing checks and/or otherwise transferring funds from any city account.
However, Nash and a councilwoman opened a checking account called the City of Gould-Disaster Fund in December 2011 and have been getting city utilities paid by automatic withdrawals.
Gibson said she and former Councilman Harry Hall had frozen the accounts a few weeks ago to keep Nash from accessing the funds but she and Hall later went back to “unfreeze” the accounts. (Hall’s status in the city is unclear, however, since he submitted a formal resignation to the council on April 10 that the council refused to accept it by a 3-2 vote.)
Gibson said she was notified by a telephone call from Simmons Bank that the accounts were “frozen” and she later called back to say she had written six checks, giving the bank the amounts, check numbers and identifying the recipients, but she said the bank refused to let the checks clear.
“The city is fixing to be shut down,” Gibson said. “My hands are tied. We can’t pay bills. I’m royally upset.”
Gibson said she has been working from home since Nash refuses to let her in her office.
Gibson said bank officials told her that a Simmons Bank lawyer is researching the matter.
Gibson said the City Council could hold a special meeting and vote to change banks. However, one City Council member will be out of town for about a month, so Gibson isn’t sure there will be enough votes to change banks.
“I’m not a happy camper and a lot of other folks aren’t either,” Gibson said. “I’m backed all the way to the corner with no way to turn. But I want the people to know that we are still trying to do what is right, but (Nash) is not going into his office, he’s not coming to meetings, he’s trying to keep the council from having meetings by locking city hall and then driving by.”
“We’re trying to do all that we can,” Gibson said.