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Jacksonville police officers suing mayor, city attorney

KATV

Jacksonville, Ark. (KATV) -- Five Jacksonville police officers are filing a lawsuit against city officials. This comes as a request for City Attorney Robert Bamburg to step down as the interim director of police.

According to Nate Steel, the attorney representing the five officers, Bamburg isn’t qualified for his role as the director of the police department.

The legal fallout from a series of past leadership decisions is on its way to court after an official complaint was filed April 4. But the city of Jacksonville and the police department have a long legal history. It all began back in June of 2017, when the Circuit Court of Pulaski County ordered Jacksonville’s then city attorney, Geoffrey Herweg, to be removed. Court documents show that one month later, in July of 2017, Mayor Gary Fletcher—without authority from City Council—appointed Bamburg as interim “director” of the Jacksonville Police Department.

“You can’t do both. The Arkansas law is very clear that you can’t hold more than one municipal office,” Steel explained.

Court documents say that neither the city of Jacksonville nor Arkansas law provide for a position known as “director” of the police department.

“The mayor has the choice of a chief of police but he has to appoint someone who is qualified and authorized to hold that position,” Steel added, noting that court documents go on with a laundry list of “chaos” that has ensued since Bamburg took power.

“[Jacksonville Police Department has] lost dozens of officers, reassigned dozens of officers; there’s been a lot of vindictiveness going on within the department. Things that just don’t make a whole lot of sense unless there’s some kind of political grudge going on … ultimately it just has to come to a stop,” Steel said.

According to Arkansas state code, no elected official, like a city attorney, can beappointed to any municipal office. Arkansas law only allows a chief of police or mayor to have power over a municipal police force.

A preliminary injunction has been requested, according to Steel. He says at a hearing the court will determine if Bamburg is authorized to hold both positions.

Channel 7 News reached out to Bamburg, but he did not return our phone call by news time Wednesday.

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