LITTLE ROCK — After announcing last week that he would retire early after pleading guilty to charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest, Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington said Tuesday he has decided not to retire and will seek re-election next year.
Saline County Judge Lanny Fite urged Pennington to resign immediately, saying Pennington’s personal problems are interfering with the performance of his duties.
Pennington, who has been sheriff since 2009, was arrested June 29 outside a Benton restaurant. He pleaded guilty Aug. 26 and was fined $2,500 for public intoxication and $500 for resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, and sentenced to one year of probation.
On Friday, Pennington informed Fite that he planned to retire Oct. 1. But on Monday, Pennington announced he had changed his mind and decided to retire Jan. 1, 2015, when his current term expires.
On Tuesday, Pennington told Fite and officials at the sheriff’s office that he had changed his mind again and decided to run for office again next year and not retire at all.
Fite released to the news media Tuesday a letter to Pennington urging him to resign.
"As an elected official you are a public servant and as a public servant you must have public trust," Fite said in the letter. "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."
Pennington did not immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
The Saline County Quorum Court was scheduled to hold a special meeting Tuesday night to consider a resolution urging the sheriff to resign. Member J.R. Walters told the Arkansas News Bureau on Tuesday afternoon he believed Pennington would hurt the image of the sheriff’s department by staying in office.
"It doesn’t look good for the sheriff’s office if he’s out here arresting people for the same things he did," Walters said.
Walters said the quorum court has no power to remove an elected official from office, and there is no recall procedure for county officials in Arkansas, but the body at least can send a message to Pennington and the public that "we’ve lost faith in him."