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Harris Excused from Hatfield City Council

Gordon Named as Replacement

BY MELANIE BUCK –

During last night’s January meeting of the Hatfield Town Council, all city officials were sworn into office with exception to David Harris, an unopposed alderman on the November 2014 ballot, who was excused from his position.

Harris first came under fire, prior to the election, when his residency was in question. The Pulse first brought you the story in September 2014 after the Town of Hatfield had filed a complaint with the Polk County Election Commission stating: “It is a fact that David Harris a resident of 356 Polk Road 35 in Hatfield, Arkansas has filed for the position of Alderman of the Town of Hatfield. This residence is not within the city limits of the town of Hatfield. He has used an address of 111 Polk Road 35 for filing purposes. The building is now vacant and has never been a residence. In fact, the last indication of being lived in was prior to the 2012 election which he attempted to establish residency within the city limits for the purpose of running for Alderman at that time.”

According to Arkansas statute 14-42-201, a person must be a resident at the time that they file as a candidate. The Election Commission was then asked to decide if in fact Harris could run for a Hatfield town office. After further research from the Commission and Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner, it was determined that the Election Commission, nor Riner, has any authority to deem a candidate’s residency and the case would have to proceed to the civil court system to determine eligibility. This was determined by a comparable case (State v. Craighead County Board of Election Commissioners), found by the Attorney for the Arkansas State Election Commission, which was sent to Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner.

There was no case brought before civil court; therefore, Harris remained on the ballot, winning unopposed in the November 2014 election.

As part of last night’s swearing-in ceremony, Arkansas Statute 14-43-501 was brought before the council. The statute states that the council “shall be judges of the election returns and of the qualifications of their own members.” Harris, still not considered a town resident by fellow council members, according to law, had to be excused from the position.

Hatfield Town Council then appointed John Gordon to replace Harris. Gordon had originally run against Mayor Larry Strickland in the 2014 election.

When reached for comment, Harris told The Pulse that he doesn’t plan any further action at this time.

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