Sheriff Vance’s (Disqualifying) Criminal Record

It appears that Grant County sheriff Ray Vance has a criminal record.  Under the Arkansas Constitution (Article 5, Section 9), which prevents anyone convicted of an “infamous crime” from holding office, he should be removed.  But unfortunately, Grant County’s prosecuting attorney Eddy Easley has thus far failed to act.

According to The Sheridan Headlight:

On April 30, sheriff candidate Tim Green presented documents in person to the prosecutor’s office showing proof that Vance had a 2010 conviction in Kansas for supplying false information in the obtainment of a lifetime resident hunting license in that state – a felony – but the judge allowed Vance to plead “no-contest” to the crime as a misdemeanor and fined him $1000, plus made him pay $12,000 in restitution to the state for the game he took over a 5-year period under the invalid license.

Vance signed a plea agreement two days before defeating Steve Gartman in the general election with 53% of the vote but the electorate was unaware of Vance’s conviction, until The Sheridan Headlight was made aware of it 18 months later through a freedom of information request to the state of Kansas. Copies of the documents were forwarded to both Vance and Green. Green then presented copies to Easley.  

Since receiving the documents, Easley has refused to comment publicly on the case other than to say “he will do his job”.

(Full story here)

Citizens of Grant County have now waited 90+ days for their prosecuting attorney to take action.  And they are still waiting.

What is an “infamous crime,” anyway?  At this point, nobody can say for certain.  After the state Supreme Court’s 2010 Edwards v. Campbell decision, which held that misdemeanor theft (stealing a political sign from someone else’s property) constituted an “infamous crime” because (assuming I am interpreting the Court correctly) the decision to steal the sign contained elements of dishonesty or deceit, it seems as if just about any criminal misdemeanor committed by a public official might qualify as an infamous crime.

This is the latest in a long string of embarrassments and uncertainties caused by the actions of apparently infamous criminals who are political candidates, many of which could have been avoided if the legislature had acted in 2009 upon the suggestion of (then) state Representative Dan Greenberg to make criminal records of public officials and candidates public record in Arkansas.  You might recall that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, now a gubernatorial candidate, fought hard against Greenberg’s proposed reforms.

State Representative David Meeks picked up the flag again in the 2011 general session, proposing a set of criminal disclosure reforms that closely mirrored Greenberg’s proposals.  Again, the reforms were stonewalled, this time dying in the House Judiciary committee — a committee controlled by current House Speaker-designate Darrin Williams and Rep. Hank Wilkins (whose wife was illegally employed by the state at the time).

If the legislature had been responsible enough to take up Greenberg’s or Meeks’s reforms, perhaps Ray Vance’s criminal history would have been brought to light much sooner and he would have been rightfully barred from seeking public office.  Instead, the issue was kept secret and the people of Grant County now wait on a prosecuting attorney who seems hesitant to do the right thing.

According to the paper, “Vance has no opponent in the general election, but if he is removed or resigns after Nov. 6, Grant County may, for the third time in 7 years, find itself having a sheriff appointed by the Governor and not one elected by the voters.”