Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TOP STORY >> County clerk is arrested for cyberbullying

Leader senior staff writer

A special Ward District Court judge Monday charged Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke with a single misdemeanor count of cyberbullying in connection with remarks he allegedly made on the Concerned Lonoke County Citizens Facebook page administered by a Cabot-area woman.

Sherwood District Court Judge Butch Hale, appointed special judge for the case, charged Clarke with making derogatory comments on that page about its administrator, Christina James, and set a June 10 trial date.

Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley called Clarke to tell him of the warrant for his arrest. Clarke turned himself in and was released.

James has alleged that Clarke logged onto the Concerned Citizens page, called her “an ugly little troll,” suggested she needed some makeup and said, “I’m probably not the guy you want to (expletive) with.”

Clarke said that, although he and James had an antagonistic professional relationship, he did not post those comments. He suggested that someone cloned or “catfished” his Facebook page.

“Ask the sheriff,” James said. “I’m sure they can figure it out.”

James has called for Clarke’s resignation, saying she didn’t believe he was hacked, but that he wrote the offensive posts.

Clarke charged that James brought the issue to court Monday to discredit him right before his May 20 re-election primary bid.

She said, “I haven’t done anything to him. He’s done it to himself.”

Clarke is running for re-election against former county clerk Dawn Porterfield. Porterfield has changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and is challenging Clarke for the post.

The winner does not have a Democratic opponent in the November General Election.

Clarke said on Tuesday that James has flooded his office since at least February with Freedom of Information requests about county business.

She said, “I’ve been in title and public records for 20 years.” James said she knows what she’s looking for and how to find it.

She said Clarke and others have loomed over her in the office and that he snatched a public record book out of her hand and ejected her from the vault where it is stored.

Clarke called James “a nutcase with a keyboard.”

James laughed at that accusation. “He needs to prove that one,” she said.

He said, “It’s all malarkey and baloney.”

James said, “Bullying has been rampant for decades.” She started her Facebook page and campaign to fight back.

Clarke said she ratcheted up the harassment of him, his office and other county officials while preparing for her $2.8 million lawsuit against the county over a road she alleges was improperly built by former County Judge Charlie Troutman and which she said caused flooding on her property.

“In my opinion, she attempted to harass me to get (current County Judge Doug Erwin) to settle,” Clarke said.

“The woman lost a…lawsuit against the county and she started harassing me in spite,” Clarke said. “She inundated me with e-mails asking for baloney, and she got what she wanted.”

Clarke said the judge issued a no-contact order on him, which he characterized as interesting because James comes so often to his public place of business.

Another Lonoke County official in possible trouble is Assessor Jack McNally, who is accused of collecting money for the Wounded Warrior Project but not turning the money over to the group.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said he believed that issue would be resolved during the routine Legislative Audit Bureau review of McNally’s office.

McNally has two Republican challengers in the primary on Tuesday.