Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington to retire

SALINE COUNTY (KATV) - Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington plans to retire October first, but he did not have much of a choice. Earlier this week, Pennington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and public intoxication.

The sheriff pleaded guilty Monday to two misdemeanors connected after being arrested on alcohol-related charges June 29. Benton officers were called to a restaurant on a report of an intoxicated person getting into the driver seat. Sheriff Pennington reportedly took a swing at the arresting officer and became belligerent.

Friday, about a dozen public officials in Saline County that Channel Seven reached out to said they have know the sheriff for years, even decades and that it is a sad day. Some said they commend him for retiring because it saves him further embarrassment.

Friday morning, 62-year old Sheriff Bruce Pennington submitted a letter with one-line to the county judge with his plans to retire. Justice of the Peace, J.R. Walters also met with the sheriff. "I hugged his neck and told him I hate to see it but you did the right thing. I told him this is my 17th year as Justice of the Peace and this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do."

Walters is friends with Sheriff Pennington but says after the embarrassing details of his arrest in June outside a Benton restaurant, it was clear what had to be done. "See we had a meeting scheduled with him at 1:30 this afternoon and I had a resolution signed by the majority of the quorum court members asking him to resign. It is in the best interest of the county. But when he turned his letter in this morning, that voided the resolution and we didn't have to do that." When asked, "Did the Sheriff know the letter was coming?" Walters answered, "He heard somehow. He said he heard a rumor but we hadn't told anyone, we wanted to keep it private."

Just four days ago, Sheriff Pennington pled guilty to public intoxication and resisting arrest. He told Channel Seven he planned to keep his job and restore his reputation. Walters concludes, "He is a good administrator, good sheriff, runs a good office, but what you do come around."

Sheriff Bruce Pennington did not return calls to Channel Seven. After the arrest, he went to a treatment facility and says he is working on addressing his flaws.

Walters says Sheriff Pennington is eligible to receive his pension and the quorum court will now look for an interim. "We will have to have a resolution declaring a vacancy in the sheriff's office then we will have people turn in their resume that want to be sheriff for the rest of the term. The quorum court will go over it and pick the person they think will be the best sheriff."

The person who takes the interim position will not be eligible to run for the office. The term is up January 2015.

Original Air Date: August 30, 2013

Saline County Sheriff arrested for public intoxication (June 30)

State Police file reveals past investigation of Saline County Sheriff (July 1)
Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington answers questions following weekend citations (July 1)
Report released in Sheriff Pennington's public intox arrest
(July 11)
Petition asking to oust Sheriff Bruce Pennington (July 19)

Charges against Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington changed (Aug. 24)
Saline County Sheriff pleads guilty (Aug. 26)