Arkansas Supreme Court rules Jacksonville police chief ineligible for job

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that Jacksonville Police Chief Geoffrey Herweg is ineligible for the job because of criminal conviction (Photo: KATV)

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Jacksonville Police Chief Geoffrey Herweg's conviction for filing a false police report disqualifies him from holding the job under state law.

The decision comes nearly a year after city alderman Tara Smith filed a lawsuit challenging Herweg's eligibility for the position.

Herweg, who was sworn in on April 14, was convicted of misdemeanor counts of filing a false police report and failure to report an accident in Williamson County, Texas in 2002. According to court records, he was convicted after he crashed a car into a home on Christmas Eve in 2000, abandoned the vehicle and lied to police about it being stolen. The conviction cost Herweg his job at the Taylor Police Department in Texas, where he'd been employed for seven years. He also permanently surrendered his law enforcement credentials in the state, according to court records.

Smith filed a lawsuit April 26 claiming that Herweg's convictions made him ineligible to be Jacksonville police chief. She cited an Arkansas law that bans anyone convicted of "infamous crimes," including crimes of dishonesty, from holding an office of public trust. Pulaski Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray then removed Herweg from the position pending the outcome of a trial. Jacksonville City Attorney Robert Bamburg appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the law on "infamous crimes" applied to elected officials and not appointed ones like Herweg.

Thursday, the state Supreme Court affirmed Gray's decision, effectively ending Jacksonville's efforts to keep Herweg as police chief.

"I think the question of whether or not he's eligible has been answered unequivocally," said attorney and former state Rep. Nate Steel, who filed the lawsuit on Smith's behalf.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, who repeatedly defended his decision to hire Herweg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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