Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. was charged Thursday with obstructing governmental operations, theft of property, abuse of office and two counts of nonfeasance in office.

Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. was charged Thursday with obstructing governmental operations, theft of property, abuse of office and two counts of nonfeasance in office.

Nash, 43, was served with a summons later Thursday and ordered to appear in Lincoln County Circuit Court at Star City on April 5 before Judge Robert H. “Rob” Wyatt Jr. to enter pleas to the four misdemeanor counts, authorities said. He could be removed from office if convicted, according to Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter.

Four members of the Gould City Council on March 13 asked Gov. Mike Beebe and state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to encourage Hunter to investigate the municipality’s financial dealings under Nash’s administration.

Hunter earlier asked the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an investigation into actions allegedly taken by Nash when Nash was serving as clerk of the Gould City Court before taking the office of mayor, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau said.

Juneau later confirmed that the prosecutor’s office asked for additional information in connection with allegations that have been raised in recent months.

The information or formal charges allege that Nash:

• Obstructed governmental operations in Gould from Feb. 15 to the present by unlawfully and willfully hindering the performance of the office of Pamela Barley-Gibson, recorder-treasurer of the municipality;

• Illegally prohibited Barley-Gibson from taking office and performing her duties and authorized payments from the city’s general fund and a disaster fund in violation of a municipal ordinance;

• In 2003, when he was serving as clerk of the City Court, altered court records without authorization and converted $520 of court monies to his own use; and

• Abused the office of court clerk by falsifying a number of court records.

Nash did not return calls from The Commercial Thursday seeking comments on the allegations filed by Hunter and Juneau. He didn’t attend the March council meeting and two of his allies on the six-member council, Aldermen Ermer Preston and Essie Mae Cableton, walked out before any votes were taken, objecting to Barley-Gibson presiding in Nash’s absence.

Barley-Gibson was appointed city recorder-treasurer three times by four aldermen, but Nash vetoed each appointment.

Aldermen Sonja Farley, Roseanna Smith-Lee, Veronica Tensley and Harry Hall voted 4-0 to override Nash’s vetoes of Barley-Gibson as recorder-treasurer. A recorder-treasurer can preside over a council meeting in the absence of the mayor under state law.

Barley-Gibson and Hall said they learned Nash and Cableton had signed a $2,986.53 check drawn on the city’s “Disaster Fund” on Feb. 6 without authorization. Nash acknowledged earlier federal monies earmarked to repair storm damage were also used to repair vandalism at the Gould Resource Center.

Nash also approved utility companies to make electronic debits on the city’s checking accounts without council authorization, the two told aldermen. A state police criminal investigator confirmed the latter.

Hall, Farley, Smith-Lee and Tensley have been feuding with Nash, Preston and Cableton for months.

Hall and Barley-Gibson maintained they were assaulted by Nash when they went to Gould City Hall with a locksmith to gain access to the recorder-treasurer’s office. They filed an affidavit with the clerk of Lincoln County District Court seeking Nash’s arrest for assault.

State Police Special Agent Clayton Moss said in an affidavit in support of the charges that complaints about Nash were filed with the prosecutor’s office last year and he was assigned to investigate the allegations in August.

The criminal investigator said he became aware of an incident that occurred at City Hall on Feb. 21 when Barley-Gibson called a locksmith to gain access to the recorder-treasurer’s office because Nash refused to give her a key. After the locksmith opened the door, Barley-Gibson said she observed “several bags of shredded papers in the room.

Nash blocked access to the unlocked office, Moss quoted witnesses as saying, and was “yelling loudly and getting agitated.” The officer said witnesses told him Nash grabbed Barley-Gibson “by the arm and slung her out of the doorway. … After the altercation, witnesses said Mayor Nash closed and locked the door, thus preventing Gibson from entering the office.”

Nash and Cableton opened a checking account in December called “City of Gould-Disaster Fund,” Moss’ affidavit stated, in apparent violation of a city ordinance.

During the investigation, the affidavit stated, Nash altered City Court records after being appointed court clerk and on April 28, 2003, dismissed at least four of his old convictions in the court on misdemeanor charges.

Nash, court records indicated, had entered guilty pleas or was convicted of failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, disorderly conduct, failure to dim headlights and speeding in 1998 and 1999, and paid fines totaling $520.

In addition to dismissing the charges, Nash “ordered himself a refund as well,” Moss wrote in the affidavit.