Friday, September 23, 2016

TOP STORY >> Council aspirant in Beebe quitting

Leader staff writer

Beebe alderman candidate Joe Morgan ended his campaign for a seat on the city council on Tuesday. Morgan was running against Alderman Matt Dugger, who is seeking re-election for the Ward 3, Position 1 in the general election on Nov. 8.

Dugger was first elected to the city council in 2014.

Dugger and his attorney, Tim Blair of Cabot, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 13 questioning Morgan’s eligibility to run for public office. Morgan may be disqualified for holding any office of trust in the state with one of his two misdemeanor convictions, writing a hot check and theft.

They also requested to have the White County Election Commission remove Morgan’s name from the ballot. If Morgan’s name is on the ballot, the White County Election Commission should not count any votes cast for him, the lawsuit requested.

The Leader contacted Morgan, but he did not return phone calls.

Morgan posted on the Joe Morgan for Beebe Alderman Facebook page on Tuesday evening that he was withdrawing.

“So this is how my opponent chose best to defeat me, and through the advice of my attorney he accomplished his goal and I must withdraw. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate, but there is a such thing as a more qualified one. However, my opponent chose the easy road, and decided not to let the citizens decide who they wanted to represent them. To me this shows he only has his own interests in mind and not that of the citizens.

“But with that said I am forgiving, and pray he represents the citizens in a more upstanding manner than how obtained the position.

“Thanks again to everyone for all of the support. I will be back in 2018!!” Morgan wrote.

Dugger told The Leader on Wednesday, “I feel nobody should be above the law or be able to bend and cut corners to achieve personal gain. I don’t feel I should have to defend myself, when (Morgan) is not eligible for office. The only reason I got a lawyer is because I didn’t think justice would have been served otherwise.”

Morgan filed a petition with White County District Court on Sept. 2 to seal the records of his criminal convictions that he believes restores his eligibility to hold office.

However, his petition was filed after the election filing had closed on Aug. 19. Morgan filed to run for office on Aug. 3.

Morgan plead guilty in November 2007 in Searcy District Court to violating the Arkansas hot check law, a Class-A misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay $217 in restitution and fines. Then in August 2013, he pleaded guilty in Searcy District Court to theft of property, a Class-A misdemeanor.

He was fined $1,000 and was sentenced to 20 days of community service and a year of supervised probation, whch he completed.

The victim made a report of the theft with Searcy Police in October 2012. The man told police that in May 2011 he loaned Morgan a Taurus .38 Special handgun to use for a security job Morgan was working. When the man tried to get his pistol back, he discovered Morgan pawned the gun at Guns Plus in Searcy.

Morgan refused to give the gun owner any of the money. The gun was sold in January 2012 at a Conway gun show. The gun was valued at $400.

Morgan worked for the City of Beebe from 2001 to 2005 as a dispatcher and later as a police officer. He returned as a part-time officer in 2006 to 2007.

Morgan worked for the White County Sheriff’s Office in 2008 as a patrol deputy.

Morgan currently works for the Arkansas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America as safety director and manager of education and training.

He serves on the Little Rock Workforce Development Board and was appointed by the Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the Arkansas Apprenticeship Coordination Steering Committee.