Grand Jury submits year end report

The Sentinel-Record  12-23-1976  

The 1976 Garland County Grand Jury Wednesday submitted its year end report to Garland Circuit Judge Henry M. Britt, making several comments regarding the “outside employment” or “moonlighting” by governmental employees.

The grand jury touched upon the mysterious disappearance of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards, but noted that because of a lack of evidence, the case would be turned over to next year’s grand jury for the purpose of a continued investigation.

The grand jury returned “no true bills” in two criminal cases under investigation. Those cases involved charges of wrongdoing levied against Mrs. Inez Brown, former director of Arkansas Revenue Department here. She was dismissed in connection with funds which turned up missing in the office. The other case revolved around the alleged double voting by Margaret Martin, a member of the Hot Springs district Six School Board. The grand jury found no evidence to substantiate criminal charges in either case.

The grand jury report was typical of the reports in recent years, but provided some commentary relief to several controversies in the Hot Springs area.

The grand jury addressed the problem of Hot Springs Police Officers holding “outside jobs” which might be considered a conflict of interest.

In the body of the report, the grand jury stated that it was recommending that the City of Hot Springs and Garland County require employees to contract not to engage in any employment of either of these governmental agencies that might appear to be a conflict of interest.

The grand jury noted that in its investigations, it had found that inflation and government budgets and today’s economy frequently require government employees or a close member of his or her family to hold a second job or make an investment to supplement their income.

The recommendation that conflict of interest type situations be avoided was made “with intent of protecting the reputation of public employees so that no hint of conflict of interest might be attached to an employee in connection with a second job or outside investment.”

Circuit Judge Britt noted that law enforcement officers are not always compensated with “adequate pay” but are also placed in a position in society of not being able to “do certain things because of their jobs.”

Judge Britt noted that when law enforcement officers or members of their families must secure outside employment in order to make a reasonable living, that it is almost impossible to police those jobs for possible conflicts of interest.

While the grand jury was in session, it heard testimony regarding shortages of public funds, voting irregularities, and a missing person. The grand jury noted that approximately 75 per cent of the burglaries in this area are drug related, consequently, it recommended that additional manpower be made available immediately to better control drugs and narcotics here.

The grand jury noted that the Hot Springs Police Department needs additional manpower to do more surveillance and investigation, so that additional arrests leading to convictions may be made.  This might be accomplished by placing a higher priority on criminal law enforcement, noted that jury.

The grand jury recommended that all private clubs and bars be checked by law enforcement officers and agents of the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission on a regular basis to verify  that all guests are of the proper age and are complying with the law.  The grand jury noted that it does not intend for its recommendation to be taken as a form of official harassment of the clubs.

The grand jury recommended that all law enforcement agencies and security personnel in Garland County initiate a procedure whereby law enforcement officers are authorized to carry only the specific weapon and serial number registered at the office of the Chief of Police or the Garland County Sheriff.

The grand jury also recommended that the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission consider a regulation to be enacted by ordinance if necessary, requiring a Civil Service employee, if requested, to tak a polygraph test, testify, or give testimony in an official investigation conducted by employees department, a law enforcement agency, or before a county, State, or Federal Grand Jury.

The jury noted that failure to testify would constitute grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary action.

“We realize that they would want an opinion from the City Attorney and the Attorney General as to the constitutionality of the proposed regulation prior to passage,” noted the jury.

The grand jury recommended that the 1977 grand jury contact the present jurors to discuss some of the areas and fields that have been investigated and require additional investigation.

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