Monday, November 27, 2006

Politics: Saline County, Arkansas

Just when Arkansans could look to Lonoke County for the moral bankruptcy of 1970s Conway County and 1980s Saline County, The fabled Saline County once again ascends the outhouse throne of Classical Southern Politics. I note three recent Internet posts. The first was a personal appeal by a concerned citizen in Saline County posted to the local Channel 16 Fox affiliate blog on the Thursday before Election Day and the second was a news item posted to KATV Interactive's website some weeks later followed by a third, extracted commentary by the Benton Courier.

FOX16 Nowcaster Community
The online gathering place for FOX16 viewers
Posted Thursday 11-02-2006, 12:53 PM by NobodyUKnow

TO ALL CITIZENS OF SALINE COUNTY: This will be the most important message that you read today, assuming that it reaches you in a timely way. You are under attack by a network of thugs posing as public officials in Saline County. Yes, you read it correctly -- you are personally under attack. A group of hoodlums -- pretending to be public officials, some elected, some not -- have decided that you made a bad choice in electing a Sheriff, not once, not twice, but three times.

Sheriff Phil Mask has two important distinctions: He is one of the most respected, effective, qualified, honored and experienced Sheriffs in the United States of America. His resume of training, experience and accomplishment will stagger you, if you take the time to get a copy and read it. He is the only Sheriff in the state of Arkansas to be nominated for the Ferris E. Lucas Award -- the highest award of its kind for law enforcement officers given by the National Sheriff's Association (NSA.) He has made national news, cracking down on internet predators, and his efforts are the only reason you don't have a meth lab right next door to you. His second distinction is that he is despised by the "good ole boys" of Saline County, the power bosses who have run the County with an iron hand for most of the past 50 years. He considers YOU to be his boss, and you've "rehired" him for THREE TERMS. Local polls indicate that you are about to do it for a fourth time -- and that is something that the power bosses can't handle.

Robert Herzfeld has just indicted the Sheriff on bogus charges stemming from a weapons sale TWO YEARS AGO that everyone -- including his own deputy prosecutor -- knew all about. It was that deputy prosecutor -- Ken Casady -- who gave a Sheriff's Department detective clearance to sell the weapons as long as the proceeds were used for department needs. The funds were deposited from the sale with the county treasurer, openly and above board. Everyone knew it -- including County Judge Lanny Fite (Mask's own first cousin and a bitter enemy) and the Quorum Court. The funds weren't hidden in some secret bank account, and used to go to Tunica. They were used to buy Tasers for deputies and to repair a patrol car. Now, Robert Herzfeld is setting up the Sheriff -- he thinks -- for an election loss next Tuesday.

If you want a return to 1950s era dirty politics, political thuggery and law enforcement corruption, you can vote for the other side. Robert Herzfeld is well known for his pursuit of the Governor all over the state, trying to make a name for himself. He hoped that you would let him be Attorney General. You were smarter than that. You sent him home to private practice (God save his clients) and you did the same even for the man he endorsed after losing! Now he's attempting to grandstand, going after the Sheriff one more time. Instrumental in this political activity is none other than former Sheriff Judy Pridgen, who Mask defeated six years ago. She is an investigator out of Herzfeld's offices. She is also the campaign manager for Mask's opponent in the election, Don Birdsong. A few of you might remember his name -- he was a former officer with the State Police who, on request, engineered the first of several cover-ups of the brutal murders of two then-teenagers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time on an Alexander railroad track.

To your credit, polls show Sheriff Mask trouncing Mr. Birdsong by wide margins. The other side feels power slipping away, and this latest stunt by Robert "the boy who would be King" Herzfeld is a last ditch effort to make you change your mind. Everyone MUST stand by Sheriff Mask, or we will lose the county as we've come to know it. It is time to tell this soon-to-be former prosecuting attorney to GO HOME and STOP ATTACKING OUR SHERIFF. When he attacks Sheriff Mask, he attacks ALL OF YOU. That's right -- every spare moment spent fighting false charges and the political abuses of this defeated prosecutor is a moment spent away from shutting down meth labs, catching internet predators and protecting you and your children.

YOU NEED TO TAKE WHAT ROBERT HERZFELD IS DOING PERSONALLY. He is unfit to continue as Prosecuting Attorney and I implore everyone reading this message to join us in calling for Robert Herzfeld to STOP HIS ATTACKS ON SHERIFF MASK Moreover, let's all join together in calling for THE RESIGNATION OF ROBERT HERZFELD AS PROSECUTING ATTORNEY. We are stuck with him until January, otherwise. This county can't take more of his political chicanery, abuse of authority and waste of the taxpayers dollars! Be glad that you and your neighbors were wise enough to reject him as Prosecuting Attorney. He is more than capable of handling one of us in the same crooked way that he is handling Sheriff Mask.

SUPPORT AND RE-ELECT THE SHERIFF ON NOVEMBER 7TH, then help those of us dedicated to serving the public to CLEAN HOUSE IN SALINE COUNTY. That applies to Robert Herzfeld, Judy Pridgen, Don Birdsong, Greg Church, Lanny Fite, Judge Grisham Phillips (who is participating with Herzfeld in this latest witch hunt) and selected members of the Quorum Court that I hope you will reject for re-election, Republican and Democrat alike.


Just three weeks later...

KATV Interactive
SALINE COUNTY SHERIFF ADMITS TO ILLEGAL SALES OF CONFISCATED WEAPONS Posted: Tuesday 11-21-2006, 8:05PM Reporter: Kristin Fisher Posted By: Talisa Austin

Saline County - After almost three weeks of denying accusations from prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld, Saline County Sheriff Phil Mask admits to illegal sales of confiscated weapons. The Sheriff acknowledged the illegal sales in a hearing Tuesday morning. It was a surprisingly quiet courtroom compared to the politically charged fire storm earlier this month. When Prosecutor Herzfeld first accused Sheriff Phil Mask of illegal sales of seized firearms, Mask called it a political ploy and a miscarriage of justice. After winning re-election and admitting to the illegal sales. The Sheriff is taking a more conciliatory tone.

Phil Mask, Saline County: “The people that we dealt with we're telling us that other law enforcement agencies did this and this is how they did it.”

No criminal charges will be filed because the statute of limitations has expired, but the Sheriff said he's imposing a new policy. All weapons seized in Saline County will be destroyed and sold as scrap metal.

Robert Herzfeld, Saline County Prosecutor: “The facts that are included in this report are still undisputed and that's obviously something that makes me feel good, that what I've done, all the hard work that I've put into this is accurate and true and will result in better law enforcement in Saline County.”

In a closed courtroom Monday the three circuit judges ordered the Sheriff to conduct a full inventory of all evidence. And the Sheriff says he's more than happy to comply.

Phil Mask, Saline County Sheriff: “There needs to be some fence building and, you know, some healing in this community and I'm the first to say, you know, I'm willing to do that.”

Herzfeld says he's now investigating other alleged criminal activity involving an illegal bank account.

And add to that...

Benton Courier Online
Opinion: Observations on a Saline County Election
Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 1:32 PM CST, by editor Whit Jones

Regarding the sheriff’s election…

Beyond explanation - That voters in Saline County would re-elect embattled Sheriff Phil Mask to a fourth term, completely ignorant, apparently, of the fact that Mask and his department have continued to embarrass the county and make it the butt of jokes statewide.

Well, you re-elected him, so expect more of the same. Keep your blinders on and your heads in the sand.

The Fox Blog Rant was just so much pre-election propaganda in the sense that it attempted to benefit the embattled Sherriff Mask while vilifying the crusading Herzfeld at the same time. One can't criticize that Saline County sense of efficiency.

Just to head it off at the pass, Robert Herzfeld is a brilliant political opportunist. The symbiosis he shares with Saline County will not be easily overcome by anyone. He will undoubtedly have a great future in Arkansas Politics and as a young man should affect such for many, many years. Politics such as they are, Herzfeld has always had a bone to pick with Mask and was not about to miss the opportunity to embarrass the recently re-elected sheriff.

Benton Courier Editor Whit Jones proves little confidence in either Sheriff Mask or the people who re-elected him.

No matter what, Saline County Politics are again front and center..."a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2006