(KATV) The Saline County Quorum Court is holding an emergency meeting as a result of Sheriff Bruce Pennington changing his retirement date to January 2015.
Friday, August 30, Quorum Court members planned to meet with the Sheriff to explain they had a resolution signed by the majority of the members asking him to resign. But the Sheriff reportedly got word of what the meeting was about and turned in his resignation hours earlier. The one-sentence letter to County Judge Lanny Fite explained he planned to retire October 1st.
Monday, three days later, he changed that to January 1, 2015.
While Sheriff Pennington did not give a reason for his retirement in his original letter, Pennington pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and public intoxication.
The charges stemmed from a June 29 incident when 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.
Saline County Judge Lanny Fite is urging the Sheriff to resign. Judge Fite sent Pennington the following letter:
"On Friday, August 30th you submitted a letter announcing your retirement due to personal reasons effective October 1, 2013. On Monday, September 2nd you rescinded that decision and changed your retirement date to coincide with your current term of office which would end January 1, 2015.
As an elected official you are a public servant and as a public servant you must have public trust. This means that you have a responsibility to Saline County and its citizens to place the public good and ethical principles above private gain. The public deserves and should expect no less from their elected officials.
At this point, your personal problems are preventing you from impartially performing your official duties. Therefore, I strongly urge you to resign as the Sheriff of Saline County effective immediately."
Justice of the Peace J.R. Walters explains, "We are going to pass a resolution Tuesday night saying that the quorum court members request him to resign immediately and if he doesn't we'll just have to go from there."
One interesting thing about all of this is that the justices can't force Sheriff Pennington to retire or resign. A Saline County Justice of the Peace explains to Channel Seven all they can do is "make it a difficult year and a half for him".
If the Sheriff resigns, Walters explains, "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.
Jeannette Reyes is at the Saline County Courthouse and will have the latest on how community leaders are reacting and what we can expect coming up on Nightside.
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)