Friday, March 17, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Payday lenders still in charge

Leader publisher

A couple of local women wept during a meeting of the Joint Senate and House Judiciary Committees at the Capitol Thursday as they talked about their nightmarish experiences with so-called payday lenders in Jacksonville.

These are the storefront lenders who take your personal check for $500, give you a little more than $400 in cash, but if that check isn’t good in two weeks, you could wind up paying more than $3,000.

That’s pretty much what happened to Hazel Lavern Lynch and Glenda Malone, who found themselves short of money and went to their neighborhood check cashers to borrow a few hundred dollars.

When they couldn’t pay, they were threatened and harassed, their lives made miserable by goons who work at these storefront businesses, until help came along from consumer groups that called off the dogs.

The women tearfully told lawmakers it was the worst experience of their lives.

They would have been better off going to a mob-connected loan shark, who wouldn’t have had the heart to charge 3,600 percent interest as some of these check cashers do.

That may explain why the mob, as far as we know, isn’t in the business of payday advances. “It would make them look bad,” a consumer advocate told us before the meeting.

Glenda Malone, who works in Jacksonville and used to have a sunny personality, looked distraught when she gave her testimony at the committee hearing. She explained that her husband had suffered an injury on the job and retired with a small disability check. They weren’t making enough money, so she decided to go to a payday lender.

She might as well have walked through the gates of hell.

“Payday lenders have practices that weren’t very pleasant,” she said, holding back tears. “They’re abusive. They’ll harass you. They’ll harass you at your job. They threaten to call your boss. They go to the bank and try to cash the check.”

There was an overdraft charge every time they presented the check to the bank, as well as a service charge by the payday lenders.
Desperate for money, she went to another check casher to pay the first lender.

When the nightmare ended, she said, “I paid over $1,400 for a $500 check.”

Hazel Lavern Lynch, an elderly black woman, was another witness. Mark Johnson, a lobbyist for AARP, which supports legislation that would chase payday lenders out of Arkansas, helped her get seated behind a microphone and seemed to help her get comfortable, which was a moving scene, since many people think of his father, Jim, as an old segregationist.

She lives on Social Security and had a part-time job in Jacksonville, but when she found herself out of work, she needed $500 to visit her family and go to a class reunion.

“I hoped to get back to work and hoped to repay the loan,” she told lawmakers.

She was eligible for a $300 loan and wrote a check for $350.

“I didn’t get the job back, so I couldn’t pay. They began to call me at home. They called my 84-year-old mother. They came to my home and went to my neighbors. They were asking them a lot of questions. They continued to call. I told them I’d pay them when I got the money. All I had were Social Security payments. They went to my bank. They knew they were direct deposited.”

They cashed her check when the Social Security money was deposited, so the old woman didn’t have her Social Security money that month and had to borrow from another check casher so she could pay the rent.

The old woman was a poignant witness, but she didn’t get much sympathy from legislators. While Johnson’s acts of kindness must have impressed others in the room, a black representative named Booker T. Clemons, a term-limited legislator from Pine Bluff, heaped mostly abuse on her.

He wanted to know why she didn’t repay the first loan. She told him she didn’t have a job. With these payday lenders, you can’t make a partial payment. They want it all, or nothing.

Even some of the money changers in the hearing room seemed moved by the women’s plight, and these lenders are seldom moved by anything except at the sight of money.

But they don’t have to worry about the Legislature ending their abusive practices anytime soon: They’ve bought enough legislators that it will be tough to pass meaningful reforms in Little Rock. What’s really amazing is not so much the sight of legislators who are bought, but how Arkansas has allowed these check cashers to make usurious loans in violation of the state Constitution.

Next: How the check cashers were allowed into Arkansas and how to get rid of them.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

SATURDAY EDITORIAL >> Bill Harmon: A class act

Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon will not seek re-election this November after nearly a quarter century in public service. He made the announcement at last week’s Sherwood City Council meeting, following a “good news” state of the city address.
In an interview with The Leader, Harmon admitted to some of his accomplishments, spreading the credit around and saying his job was done.

He will now let a new generation take over a community that has been called one of the finest suburbs in the nation. Under his leadership, Sher-wood has grown dramatically, but it has avoided many of the problems associated with suburban sprawl: Clogged roads, overburdened city services, outdated infrastructure, inadequate law-enforcement and more.

Sherwood has thrived through Bill Harmon’s leadership. He has stood up for the interests of ordinary residents rather than special interests. When, for example, the North Belt extension threatened to disrupt too many neighborhoods, the mayor came out against the proposed route and has supported a less destructive route.

Harmon has been a great ambassador for his city, building a reputation as a straight-talking mayor whose ever-present Stetson symbolizes small-town values. You always knew where Bill Harmon stood, and he has always kept his word.
He didn’t suffer fools lightly, and when he made up his mind, he was hard to move.

Always quick to safeguard Sherwood’s interests, the mayor appointed a committee to watch over the consultants doing a study of the feasibility of dissolving the Pulaski County Special School District and reconfiguring all districts in Pulaski County.

Always an advocate for the young and old, he oversaw construction of new parks, a recreation center and a senior center as well.

Bill Harmon also showed class when he announced his retirement in plenty of time for prospective mayoral candidates to jump in the race before the May filing deadline. Sherwood has a deep bench with good leadership ready to go to bat: Alderman Denny Stedman has announced that he will run for mayor, signifying the passing of the torch to a younger generation that is ready to take Sherwood forward, thanks to Bill Harmon’s stewardship that will make the town better that it has ever been.

SPORTS >> Beebe ladies win two, lose one at MSM tournament

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The Beebe Lady Badgers came away with wins over Malvern and North Little Rock during last weekend’s Mount St. Mary’s tourney in Sherwood, but lost to Benton.

The Lady Badgers softball team added two more wins to their season total over the weekend in the Mount St. Mary’s tournament in Sherwood, but they also added their first loss.

Beebe beat Malvern 6-2 in the first round, then knocked off North Little Rock 1-0 Saturday afternoon.

The loss came in the following game in the quarterfinals of the 35-team tournament against Benton. The Lady Panthers handed Beebe its first loss with a 1-0 decision.

“Our defense and pitching was really good that second day, but we just were a little off at the plate,” Beebe coach Terry Flenor said. “Our timing was just a little off and we just weren’t getting it done. We were going against good quality pitching, but hopefully as the season goes on, we’ll still do better than that.”

Beebe’s defense wasn’t so great against Malvern, but the bats were hot as the Lady Badgers scored six earned runs on nine hits.

The Lady Leopards took the lead in the top of the first inning. The first two batters to step to the plate got a single and a double for the first run of the game.

Beebe pitcher Callie Mahoney settled down after the rough first inning, and allowed just one bunt single over the next five.
Meanwhile, Beebe scored at least one run in every inning, and scored twice in the second.

Brandi Burkhalter got things started in the first with an infield single.

A stolen base and a sacrifice moved her to third, where Chelsea Sanders singled to drive in the run.

Burkhalter did some damage in the second inning as well, but instead of scoring the runs, she drove them in.

Mykia Cox and Laura Foreman singled to get on base, and moved up a base on a sacrifice grounder by Laura Tucker. That brought Burkhalter back to the plate, who singled for two RBIs and a 3-1 Beebe lead it would not relinquish.

The Lady Badgers had a chance to put together a huge inning in the fifth when they got the two leadoff hitters on base, but bad luck struck.

Mahoney and Sara Flenor each hit hard line drives to left field, but the Malvern outfielder made outstanding plays to get both batters out.

She made an overhead stab of Flenor’s shot that would have cleared the bases if the play wasn’t made.

Coach Terry Flenor said more of that same kind of luck struck on Saturday.

“We didn’t hit very well overall, but we did a hit a few really hard, they were just right at somebody,” Flenor said.

Beebe, 4-1, opened conference play last night at home against Marion, and will play a doubleheader on the road Thursday at Nettleton.

Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of the Leader.

SPORTS >> ALL STARS: Several local players named to All-State/Conference

Leader sports writer

Basketball season is over, but the honors and accolades are just starting to roll in. Several players from local-coverage teams made their respective leagues’ all-conference teams, while a select few were named to the All-State squad.

Leading the list of local players is Jacksonville senior Lavar Neely. Neely, a 5-11 guard, has been the team’s leading scorer for two years, and was the second-leading scorer in the AAAAA-East. His 24 points per game was second behind West Memphis’ Jason Henry.

Neely was also nominated for the All-Star team. Henry got the league’s automatic bid, but Neely made the list of top-five league players to be considered for invitations to the summer classic.

The Cabot girls, who won the AAAAA-East with a perfect 14-0 record, put three players on the All-State team, led by senior Kim Sitzmann. Sitzmann, who signed an NCAA letter of intent early with UALR, is also up for All-Star consideration.
Sitzmann was joined by junior guards Maddie Helms and Jamie Sterrenberg on the All-State list.

Jacksonville senior post player Tarneshia Scott also made the AAAAA-East All-State team.

Lonoke senior guard Meaghan Kelleybrew is also up for All-Star consideration. She made the All-State team after averaging 13 points, four rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.4 steals and shooting 70 percent from the free-throw line.

Her point and block averages, as well as her free-throw percentage, led the Lady Jackrabbits, who finished second behind state champion CAC in the 6AAA.

North Pulaski senior guard Tish Howell also made All-State. She averaged 18 points per game for the Lady Falcons, who finished fourth and advanced to the state playoffs from the AAAA-Southeast conference. She had a season-high 27 points against Stuttgart in a game that locked up NP’s playoff bid.

Riverview post player Cory Cooperwood is the 2AAA’s No. 1 selection for the All-Star team. Cooperwood dominated the league, averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds per game.

Twice this season Cooperwood scored 30-plus while pulling down 20-plus rebounds.

His most remarkable effort of the season came in the regional tournament against Gosnell. The 6-foot-6 post scored 35 points, grabbed 23 rebounds, blocked 10 shots and dished out 10 assists for a quadruple-double.

Across town, Searcy senior and Wichita State signee Chris Brown made the All-State team for the Lions. Brown averaged 22 points and eight rebounds this season.

Harding Academy put one boy and one girl on the All-State team. Senior post player Jessica Stevens made All-State, as well as Wildcat junior guard Alex Beene.

In an odd twist, Lady Wildcat guard Sara Montgomery was not named to the All-State team, but was nominated as the league’s top consideration for the All-Star game. She was also named to the All-State tournament team for her performance in the class AA tournament, leading the Lady Wildcats to the quarterfinal round.

Beene averaged 19 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists per game for the Wildcats, and knocked 101 three pointers this season.

Stevens scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds per game, while Montgomery averaged 10 points and seven assists.
The list of All-conference players is even more prolific. Dozens of local players made the list.

The Jacksonville boys put Kelsey Credit and Kajuan Watson on the first-team, while Will Christian, Airic Hughes and Bryan Owens made second-team.

Lady Devil Frankie Brown made the girls All-Conference team.

Cabot junior Lindsey Watts joined the three Lady Panther All-Staters on the All-Conference first team, while senior Lauren Walker and sophomores Rachel Glover and Leah Watts made the second team.

Chad Glover, Mike Lowery and Matt Shinn were the Cabot boys All-Conference selections.

Sylvan Hills seniors Mike Gross and Ulysses Robinson made first-team All-Conference from the Bears’ state semifinal team.
Gross was also named to the All-State tournament team after averaging nearly 20 points per game in the Bears’ three tournament matchups.

Lady Jackrabbits Jenny Evans, Libby Gay and Calisha Kirk joined Kelleybrew on the 6AAA All-Conference first team, while Christy Shinn made the second-team.

Eligha Gooden and Kylon Boyd made the 6AAA first team for the Jackrabbits. Chris Moragne and Brentley Spencer made second-team. The 6AAA also makes an academic All-Conference team, and Walter Ellis and Lady Rabbit Nikki McCoy made that list.

North Pulaski’s Quinn Cooper was the Falcons’ All-Conference selection. Lady Falcons Jalecia Bateman and Lakeyshia Ridgeway joined Howell on the All-Conference team.

Riverview’s junior guard Tony Hall made the 2AAA’s first-team All-Con-ference list. He and Cooperwood were both named to the class AAA All-State tournament te-am. Harding Academy’s Nick Beene made All-Conference and was selected as one of the league’s All-Star nominees. Joining the Beene brothers on the 2-AA South All-Conference team by teammates Luke Tribble, Lance Carr and James Kee. Lady Wildcats Jennifer Kee, Rebekah Keese, Liz Ashley, Katie Cook and Taylor Pryor made the All-Conference team from the 2AA-South.

NEIGHBORS >> Chat 'N' Chew

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: School reading program involves students, community leaders and lunch

Fourth grade students at Magness Creek Elementary are becoming excited about reading through the Chat ‘N’ Chew book clubs started by literacy teacher Joni Coats.

“Of my 41 students, 21 had been identified at some risk in the area of reading comprehension,” Coats said. “With that many Academic Improvement Plans I knew the school would never be able to supply me with the tutoring assistance I needed to accommodate all these children.” Inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s book clubs, Coats suggested fourth-grade book clubs during lunch led not by teachers, but rather by community members who could become mentors to the children. Magness Creek principal Blaine Alexander volunteered to lead one of the book clubs and sent an e-mail to the administration office and out to the community.

Now seven Chat ‘N’ Chew book clubs, four for girls, three for boys, with six students in each, meet throughout the week. Book club students take their lunches and books into conference rooms where community volunteers lead the Chat ‘N’ Chew discussions.

Other community volunteers beside Alexander include Pam Carter and Robert Martin both of the Cabot School Central Office; Angela Kuntzman of Cebridge Communications in Cabot; Jeff Hardage of Whit Davis Lumber Plus in Cabot; Charlotte Ramsey and Kylie McGinty, both teacher interns from the University of Central Arkansas. “It’s over lunch so it’s casual and fun and not like a classroom atmosphere,” Coats said. In addition to building literacy skills in a relaxed environment the clubs are helping with student behavior problems in the classroom.

“The students are seeing that reading is a wonderful thing, not from a teacher but from ordinary grown-ups. Children love the clubs. They like having a special place to eat and talk to someone other than a teacher about books,” Coats said.

During the first meeting the students decide how many chapters they’re going to read for each Chat ‘N’ Chew, usually two to three chapters a week. It takes about six to eight Chat ‘N’ Chew meetings to complete a book.

In Martin’s book club, the boys are reading “Snow Treasure” by Marie McSwigan, a 156-page historical mystery about Nazis invading Norway.

“We’re learning about context clues and predicting what’s going to happen next,” Martin said. A self-described history buff, Martin used the Internet to show the students where Norway is and what a fjord looks like to aid them in understanding the setting of the novel.

Down the hall in Jeff Hardage’s book club, the group is discussing the 96-page “The X-ed Out X-Ray” an A to Z Mystery by Ron Roy. “At home I read more managerial books and hunting magazines,” says Hardage. “I think it’s important to show the young students that reading is enjoyable and adults are interested in it.”

SATURDAY EDITORIAL >>Halter is no Bumpers

Bill Halter got out of the Arkansas governor’s race Thursday, reflecting greater wisdom than the young Rhodes scholar had demonstrated in his brief political career. Halter said he was persuaded that he would have to savage Mike Beebe to have any chance of winning the Democratic nomination and he was loathe to run that kind of campaign. In that manner alone did he remind anyone of young Dale Bumpers, who was unknown outside the mountain hamlet of Charleston where he practiced law and ran a hardware store when he came out of a large pack of candidates to defeat the giants of Arkansas politics in one five-month span 35 years ago. Bumpers refused to attack his opponents, a stance he would keep for 28 remarkable years. Halter had not restrained himself since announcing last fall that he might run for governor, but at least he did not have the stomach for the mudslinging that Republicans hoped he would undertake.

At least as likely, he concluded he could not win at any cost. Attorney General Beebe has too many powers-that-be, too much of the party, too much money, too much caution, too much savvy to be sidetracked by an unknown in a primary only a little more than two months away. Halter’s campaign of ideas, which he had promised and which his superb education led us to expect, was an immediate bust. His big idea was a lottery.

Now Halter joins the innumerable caravan that wants to be Arkansas lieutenant governor. He joins four Democrats and three Republicans running for a job that requires less heavy lifting than any public position in these parts except constable of Big Rock Township. The lieutenant governor has a single duty under the Arkansas Constitution, which is to preside over the state Senate a few hours a week for three months in off-numbered years — if he wants to. If the lieutenant governor wants to knock off, the Senate president pro tempore or another senator will slide into the Senate president’s chair and government runs just as smoothly. Until a few years ago, the lieutenant governor rarely set foot in the Capitol except when the legislature was in session.

But neither the joy of presiding over the somnolent upper chamber or the lassitude of doing next to nothing and drawing a regular paycheck is what impels Halter and all the others. It is the knowledge that lightning struck for the last two lieutenant governors. They fell into the governor’s office without first having to run for it. Jim Guy Tucker became governor when Bill Clinton resigned to become president, and Mike Huckabee became governor when Tucker resigned after his conviction for misdeeds in his business affairs in the 1980s. The only other lieutenant governor who climbed out of the obscurity of the office was the first one, Harvey Parnell, who got to be governor.

From what we have gleaned from Halter, unless we misjudge him, this may be the perfect job.

WEDNESDAY EDITORIAL >> Huckabee train slows

After nearly a year of circuit riding in the early presidential precincts of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, our former preacher turned politician got his chance on the big stage Saturday. Gov. Huckabee’s speech to the Republican midterm convention at Memphis, an early cattle show for presidential aspirants, earned him some offhand notice in the public prints, blogs and TV shows. It didn’t make him, but it didn’t break him either. He barely registered in the straw poll of preferences, but Sen. Bill Frist, the native son, had that stacked anyway.

We would guess that Huckabee got enough encouragement to keep him going, but then that threshold did not need to be high. He makes a pretty good speech, tells a good yarn, effects an agreeable rhythm, and your attention is called to that skinny though slightly hunched frame. Everyone is reminded that this is the politician who shed more than a hundred pounds.

Mike Huckabee is a distant candidate for the Grand Old Party in ’08, and we suspect that he will be nothing more than that a year from now or even two years from now, if he remains until the primaries begin. He has a single chance to emerge as a major candidate and that rests on his ability to make a fetching speech. Regardless of his rhetoric at Memphis and elsewhere in his travels, his record as a tax-and-spend, big-government politician won’t help in a party that is now captive of the far right. His personal story, unlike the prisoner-of-war John McCain’s, is not compelling: a Baptist preacher who goes into politics and melts off a hundred pounds of baby fat under medical-school supervision.

Compared with George W. Bush, Huckabee is Pericles incarnate, and his oratorical skill stacks up well also against Frist, Sen. John McCain and the other potential candidates. But we are reminded that the best speechmakers in Republican primaries going back to 1988 got nowhere. The absolute worst won the nomination every time: George H. W. Bush in ’88 and ’92, Bob Dole in ’96 and the Bush son in 2000 and 2004. Without a script neither Bush could talk his way out of a jaywalking ticket, and people were known to have fallen asleep exchanging hellos with Dole.

But making the other candidates seem inarticulate is Huckabee’s only ticket. May the muses inspire him or else we will not soon have another governor rise to the highest office in the land.

Accounts of the governor’s brief oration at Memphis do not encourage us. His big applause line, that “I’d still rather fight the terrorists in Baghdad than Boston any day of the week,” is a tired variation of the most popular refrain in Republican politics. The Bush administration pushes that line as a rhetorical justification for the war in Iraq. The conservative Washington journal, the Weekly Standard, had a lengthy piece about all the variations uttered by members of the administration and Republican supporters and pundits: “I’d rather meet the terrorists in Tikrit than in Tahoe,” etc. Besides, while it sounds good it is meaningless. Terrorism in Baghdad is a product of the war, not cause of it. So the governor needs to find fresh material, not mine the Republican talking points.

As part of our encyclopedic political counsel, we suggest that he try to distinguish himself from the propaganda mill. Like the other speakers, Huckabee picked up all the refrains: defense of Bush’s war and warmaking tactics, attacks on abortion and gays, cheers for tax cuts, spending restraints and fiscal conservatism in general.

Here was a chance to abandon the official hypocrisy. Fiscal conservatism? Not many Republican conservatives really believe that this administration and the national party invoke those values. Not when Congress this week is taking up a resolution to expand the nation’s debt ceiling to $9 trillion so that the government does not have to renege on its obligations for the first time in history.

Huckabee could call on the party to return to its fundamental principles but he hasn’t, so far. He has been pointing out that he has balanced the budgets in Arkansas for 10 years, but of course in Arkansas the Constitution requires it and he would risk jail if he didn’t.

But his embrace of the principle of limited government was hollow, even if it got polite applause. He said that he had rammed through the only tax cut in Arkansas in decades over the objections of critics who said he would be wrecking the budget. The crowd, except for a few Arkies, could not have known that the tax cut of 1997 was written by Democratic lawmakers, sponsored by the Democratic leader and passed 96-0 in the House of Representatives. Unlike the Bush tax cuts, its rewards went to working families and not the super-rich. Huckabee said “good job” and signed it.

Few of them knew as well that the tax cut of 1997 was followed by a string of tax increases largely on Arkansas working families that far offset the little income tax cut: three sales tax increases, expansion of the sales tax to many services, an income tax surcharge, gasoline taxes, diesel taxes, cigarette and tobacco taxes and a drivers license increase. The delegates may not have known that he helped arrange the largest expansions of government-paid medical care in Arkansas history (largely paid by U.S. taxpayers), compiled a larger general-obligation debt than all previous governors combined, increased the number of government employees by 20 percent (to 52,440 in January) in only nine and a half years and conducted a liberal policy of criminal pardons and commutations.

That is not limited government. It happens that we think the governor might want to brag about a few of those things that he accomplished with the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature because they made our society better, but they are not what you tell a very conservative constituency like a gathering of current Republican faithful. We understand the governor’s predicament, but we hate to see him mislead. Our final advice: Be the John McCain of 2008. Tell it like it is. They will respect you for it tomorrow.

OBITUARIES >> 03-15-06


Vav Ann Aten, 43, of Lonoke passed away suddenly on March 12. She was born Jan. 19, 1963, to the late Walt and Christine Baxter. She is survived by her husband of 15 years, Jack Aten Jr., and two children Kailee and Autumn Partington, all of the home; two brothers Riley Partington and Douglas Baxter, mother and father-in-law Jack and Joetta Aten of Cabot and a host of other family and friends.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church with interment to follow at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service of Cabot.


Lynda J. Wilkinson, 61, of Jacksonville, passed away March 3 in Beckville, Texas.

She was born Nov. 28, 1944, the daughter of Odus and Velma Pack. She was the owner of Party Bazaar in Jacksonville. She enjoyed going on cruises and being with her family. She is preceded in death by her parents, Odus Pack, Sr., and Velma (Meeks) Pack; her sister, Janette Miller and her brother, Bobby Pack.

She is survived by her husband of 42 years, Farrell Wilkinson of Beckville, Tex.; her children, Jack Wilkinson of Biscoe, Mary Atkin-son, and her husband, Bo, of Houston, Texas; three sisters, Laverne Miller of Century, Fla., Dorothy Easter of Jacksonville and Virginia Yawn and her husband, James, of Selma, Ala.; one brother, Odus Pack, Jr., and his wife, Patsy, of North Little Rock, and three grandchildren, Farrann Wilkinson, Chase Atkinson and Bailey Atkinson.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday in the chapel of Rest Hill Funeral Home, 7724 Landers Road, North Little Rock.


Horace Edward “Pat” Burlison, formerly of Cabot, passed away March 10 at North Little Rock.

He was born to Augustus M. and Laura Hattie Clark Burlison on Dec. 15, 1916, at Rose Bud. He was a Baptist, a World War II veteran and served in the Northern France and Rhineland campaigns.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Pauline Fry Burlison, a son, Michael E. Burlison and a brother, Ronald Burlison.
Survivors include a son, Robert Burlison of Gainesville, Ga.; a daughter, Beth Williams of Little Rock; a brother, Winfred Burlison of Rose Bud; grandchildren, David and Tim Odom, Paula Luffman, Steven, Adam, Melissa, Melanie, Nathaniel, Jon, Jacob, Justin, Jaila and Jessica Burlison; great-grandchildren, Scott and Jared Luffman, Bridget Odom, Stevie Burlison and Aimee Odom, and numerous nieces and nephews. Graveside services were held March 13 at Martin Cemetery, Rose Bud.

Arrangements were by Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.'


John Allen Clark, 77, of Beebe, died Saturday, March, 11.

He is survived by two daughters, Katrina Simpson of Cabot, and Brenda; a brother, Bill Clark of Beebe; five grandchildren, and his sister Betty Stitler of Beebe.

A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Doris Clark
Doris P. Clark, 75, of Jacksonville passed away March 9 at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs. She was born July 31, 1930, in Newark, N.J., to Mark and Helen Peneau Sullivan. On Sept. 1, 1951, she married Philip Clark Jr. in Roselle Park, N.J. In 1969, they moved to Jacksonville where they raised their family. She was a member of St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Jack-sonville. She was preceded in death by her husband in 1998 and a son, Philip James Clark III.
She is survived by three children, Kathleen Tucker of Jacksonville, James and DeAnn Clark of Hot Springs, Karen and Jeff Reynolds of Jacksonville; 16 grandchildren; eight great grandchildren; sister and brother-in-law, Eilene and Michael Stains of Lincoln Hill, Calif.
Mass of the Christian burial will be 11 a.m. Monday at St. Jude’s Catholic Church with Father Les Farley officiating. Interment will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. A rosary will follow after the visitation.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Clois Rudolph Langley, 85, of Kensett, was born Sept. 11, 1920, in Joy, to Marvin and Emma Sullivan Langley, and died March 8.

A devoted father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, he was preceded in death by his wife, Ozella; a daughter, Patricia Johnson; his parents and a brother and sister. He is survived by his grandchildren, Randy Johnson and his wife Kelly of Kensett, Lisa Brown of Kensett and Melissa Rogers of Searcy; nine great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Mt. Hebron Cemetery at Joy in White County.


Vickie Marie Simborski, 55, of Columbus, Ohio, died March 5 at Mt. Carmel West Hospital in Columbus.  She was born Oct.5, 1950, in Little Rock to Milton and Avijean Sisk Riddle.  

She was preceded in death by her father and grandparents, Mae and Albert Sisk.  She worked with Nationwide Insurance as a computer programmer.  She was a Baptist and an Air Force veteran.

Survivors include her mother, Avijean Riddle of Jacksonville, three daughters; Maria Utting and husband Ian of Jacksonville, Shiloh Motley and husband John of Columbus and Glenda Olscwa of Jacksonville; a son, Matthew Riddle and wife Alise of Dallas, and the father of her children, Joe Penner; grandchildren, Joshua Olscwa, Nina Furrow, Victoria Hinkle, Dylan Olscwa, Brittany, Kortney and Jonielle Motley, Brittney and Brianna Mason, as well as three great-grandchildren, Marcus Hinkle, Makayla Hinkle and Gabrielle Olscwa.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville.

Interment will follow in Chapel Hill Memorial Park with funeral arrangements by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Amanda “Mandi” Gilkerson Kiesling, 19, of Cabot, was born Dec. 14, 1986, in North Little Rock, to Michael and Grace Roberts Gilkerson.

She died March 7 as a result of an automobile accident.

She was a student at Arkansas State University at Beebe and at Pulaski Tech and worked at Jacksonville Neurology Clinic.
Mandi is survived by her husband Will Kiesling and daughter Darby Kiesling of Cabot.

Other survivors include her parents, Mike and Gigi Gilkerson of Cabot; her sister, Lindsay Gilk-erson of Cabot; her grandparents, Harry and Myrtie Gilkerson of Cabot; her mother-in-law Katy Kiesling of Jacksonville; her aunts and uncles Bill and Dana Herring of Tulsa, Okla., and Bobby and Ann Weeks of North Little Rock.

Funeral services were held Friday at Living Waters Assembly of God Church in Cabot with burial in Hicks Cemetery.

TOP STORY >> Council shaken by more charges

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Stunned by lurid tales of sex and drugs involving its former police chief, the Lonoke City Council grilled the acting chief over alleged irregularities Monday.

Still shaken over the felony arrest of their former police chief and his wife on drug, theft and sex-related charges and their mayor for using inmate labor at his home, a former dispatcher for having sex with an inmate and now a legislative audit report pointing to irregularities in the jail commissary fund, some members of the Lonoke City Council asked acting Police Chief Sean O’Nale pointed questions about missing ticket and receipt books and those irregularities Monday night.

The town recently has been the butt of jokes on late- night television, and this week is featured in a National En-quirer article titled “Scandalville—Top cop and wife busted in sex and drug shame.” The article—mug shots and all—lumped Mayor Thomas Privett, accused of having inmate labor hang his Christmas lights and fix his air conditioner, with former Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly on multiple felony charges.

But Monday night, the council was most concerned with the audit report that accused O’Nale with improperly withdrawing $1,760 from the commissary fund, and with missing ticket and receipt books.

O’Nale said that in order to maintain his integrity and confidence in the police department, he was giving the city deputy clerk a check for that amount until questions are answered.

“This is not a repayment,” he said, indicating that he didn’t owe the money. Because the irregularities are under investigation by the State Police, O’Nale said he couldn’t answer questions about that.

He did say the department had “nothing to hide. These are accounting issues.”

Councilman Pat Howell asked the chief hard questions about the missing police ticket books and receipts, which could have been the result of carelessness and bad procedures, or of someone skimming unrecorded money.

O’Nale said most of the problems in accountability had been corrected and others would be soon.

Abruptly in the middle of questioning, Howell moved that the council go into executive session to consider a personnel matter, which some speculated had to do with disciplining O’Nale, but when the public meeting reconvened about 30 minutes later, no action was taken and no further explanation was given about the purpose of the session. Pretrial motions will be heard Thursday in Lonoke Circuit Court on charges against former chief Jay Campbell, his wife Kelly and two-bail bondsmen.

No charges are currently pending regarding irregularities in the commissary funds or tickets or fine collection.
Alderman Dick Bransford read a statement answering those who have asked how the city council let things get so far out of hand.

“We had nothing but rumors and coffee-shop talk,” said Bransford of the allegations that eventually be-came charges against the police chief.

“We can’t act on this kind of in-formation, we’d be sued and in all kind of trouble. We have to get our ducks in a row (before acting.)”

He said councilmen first discovered that charges had been filed against the chief and the mayor from the news media—that no one in authority would tell them anything and that even state Rep. Lenville Evans (D-Lonoke) had been unable to learn anything from the State Police.

As for the funds missing from the jail commissary fund, Bransford said that he had served on the council for 20 years, through seven mayors and “I’ve never heard of a commissary account. How can we be held responsible?”

The council may be sensitive to all the alleged official wrongdoing, but it nonetheless approved the meetings of the newly formed Advertising and Promotion Com-mission and the selection of Shirlene Jones of Perry Motel as chairman.

In other action, the council approved spending $1,900 to fix each of two wells, and the purchase of a water-level recorder for $1,360.

The council approved the purchase of a tractor/loader for the parks department, and also money for a taller ladder for the ladder truck so it could evacuate the third floor if necessary of the new Holiday Inn Express. It also authorized the repair of a fire department pump truck, or else the installation of a new pump if necessary.

The council approved spending as much as $17,000 for new computers and a server for the community center, if purchased on state contract.

TOP STORY >> C-130 repair costs rise

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The Air Force will have to pay $9 million for each plane to fix microscopic cracks on the wings of its aging cargo fleet, or about $297 million on aircraft assigned to LRAFB alone.

It will cost the Air Force nearly $700 million — $9 million per plane — to repair microscopic cracks in the wings of its 82 aging C-130 cargo aircraft, including 33 assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base. But the repairs would cost much less than what it would cost to replace all the defective cargo aircraft with the new C-130J model, which has a price tag of between $66.5 million and $90 million each.

Little Rock Air Force Base is waiting to hear when Air Mobility Command will budget the time and $297 million to repair the 33 grounded and restricted aircraft stationed at the base, which account for more than a third of the Air Force’s C-130s needing wing repairs are scattered among the units at the base. Of the 314th Airlift Wing’s 42 C-130s, 12 are restricted and eight are grounded. Of the 463rd Airlift Group’s 30 C-130s, two are restricted and five are grounded.

“It’s a very big job,” said Capt. David Faggard, chief of the 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office. “It’s not like taking the car to the garage. It takes at least six months to replace the wing-boxes.”

It is not yet known when the planes from Little Rock Air Force Base will be repaired.

Once a timetable is announced, the C-130s that get the repair will be flown to Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base near Macon, Ga.

In 2005, Air Force engineers found microscopic cracking where the wings meet the fuselage, an area called the wing-box, on the 40-year-old C-130E and 20-year-old H models. After maintainers evaluated the 450 C-130s in the fleet, the Air Force grounded nearly 100 aircraft with the cracks. Of those, 18 were permanently retired, leaving 82 C-130s needing the expensive wing repair.

The Air Force put weight, altitude and flight time restrictions on aircraft that might develop the cracks based on wear and tear, such as the number of hours flown, maintenance issues and the more demanding tactical flying of wartime maneuvers.
A wing-box repair plan recently released from the 330th Tactical Air Support Command at Warner Robins Air Force Base details 75 wing-box replacements over the next five years, including one wing-box replacement in 2007, four in 2008, 17 in 2009, 18 in 2010, 18 in 2011 and 17 in 2012, leaving seven C-130s needing the repair.

Warner Robins Air Logistics Center is one of the Air Force’s five air logistics centers that has worldwide management and engineering responsibility for the repair, modification and overhaul of the F-15 Eagle, C-130 Hercules, the C-141 Starlifter, all Air Force helicopters as well as all special operations aircraft and their avionics systems.

Just how long the wing-box repair will extend the life of the C-130s is still in question.

Four years ago, a U. S. Forest Service C-130A that had undergone repairs for wing cracks crashed when its wings snapped off as it flew over a wildfire in Walker, Calif.

While Little Rock Air Force Base awaits the fate of its C-130s, it isn’t letting groundings and restrictions slow down the mission of training C-130 flight, maintenance and ground crews for all branches of the military. “The aircraft being restricted and grounded affects us because we’re doing more missions with less aircraft, but we’re still meeting our mission requirements,” Faggard said. “We’re just doing it in different ways, like borrowing aircraft from other bases, such as Keesler Air Force Base. It’s a pretty common practice,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Defendants in scandals spend time at hearings

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: In a sex and drugs case that has rocked the Lonoke community, the Campbells and two bail bondsmen plead not guilty and are slated to appear for pretrial motions on Thursday.

Pretrial motions are set for Thursday in the various drug and/or theft trials of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife Kelly and bail bondsmen Bobby Cox Jr. and Larry Norwood in Lonoke County Circuit Court at Lonoke.

All four defendants pled not guilty before Circuit Judge David Reynolds Monday morning to an array of felony charges brought in February, and the Campbells each also pleaded not guilty to 10 new drug or theft charges filed Friday.
Reynolds tentatively set at July 2 trial date.

Substituting for ailing Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw at the plea and arraignment Monday, Reynolds deferred ruling on Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain’s motion to revoke Kelly Campbell’s bond and lock her up. McCastlain argued that the defendant had improperly talked with witnesses and victims in her case.

Kelly Campbell’s attorney, Mark Hampton, said his client hadn’t intentionally violated the no-contact order, adding that in one instance, a victim who is also a neighbor had approached the Campbells with vacation gifts for their children.
“No contact means no contact,” said Reynolds, but he said retired Circuit Judge John Cole could hold a hearing on the matter Thursday, when the pretrial motions are heard, leaving her free on her $15,000 bond.
“I can control my client,” said Hampton.

Cole has been assigned to hear the charges against Jay Campbell, represented by Patrick Benca, and also has been assigned to hear whatever comes before the court in Hanshaw’s absence on Thursday.

That’s the date set for pretrial motions for all four defendants, according to Donna Gay, staff attorney for the Administrative Office of the Court.

No judge has been assigned yet to hear the cases of Kelly Campbell, Cox and Norwood, Gay said.
McCastlain told Reynolds Monday that the state would like all four cases joined.

Waiting to be called for arraignment, Jay Campbell look-ed relaxed, sitting with his arm around his wife in the front row of the courtroom.

Later they walked hand-in-hand to the sheriff’s office to be booked on the new charges.

Friday, McCastlain also filed sexual abuse charges against former Lonoke Police Department dispatcher Amy Staley, alleged to have had sex with an inmate. Staley is slated for arraignment April 3.

New charges against the Campbells include four counts of residential burglary, five counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and a count of theft by receiving.
Kelly Campbell is also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

A Department of Corrections investigation begun about seven months ago into whether or not some Lonoke city officials improperly used Act 309 inmate labor was later handed off to the State Police and subsequently resulted in charges that Jay Campbell conspired with the two bail bondsmen to manufacture methamphetamine, that his wife had sex with prisoners about two dozen times, and that the Campbells had stolen prescription drugs and jewelry from Lonoke residents.

These latest charges grew out of the same investigation, according to State Police Investigator Charles McLemore.

Jay Campbell’s February charges included not only the conspiracy to manufacture meth-amphetamine charge, but also two counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution, conspiracy to commit burglary, theft by receiving, theft of services and one misdemeanor, theft of property.

His wife was charged with five counts of furnishing prohibited articles, one count of second-degree escape, one count of residential burglary, four counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit residential burglary, one count of theft of property and one misdemeanor charge, tampering.
Cox was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, in-timidating a juror, a witness or an informant, and terroristic threatening.

Norwood was charged with a single count of criminal conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
At that time, Cox, Norwood and Chief Campbell each were released on $50,000 bond and Kelly Campbell posted a $15,000 bond.

Lonoke Mayor Thomas Pri-vett, arrested in February, is free on $500 bond for his misdemeanor theft of services charge.
He will be arraigned April 3.