Case challenges residency of new Lepanto mayor

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Newly-elected Lepanto mayor Steve Jernigan is involved in a civil court case to determine if he is a resident of Lepanto and therefore eligible to serve as mayor.

Prosecutor Martin Lilly said the prosecutor's office of Poinsett County had "received a complaint or complaints from a person or persons alleging that the candidate did not reside in city limits."

After that, the prosecutor's office requested the Arkansas State Police conduct an initial inquiry. They found a county address was listed for Jernigan's driver's license and that the same address was listed on other information that was publicly available, according to Lilly.

The prosecutor's office asked the State Police for further investigation, including an interview with Jernigan.

"Jernigan produced a one-page document which was a lease for $5 a week," Lilly said. The lease was for a residence in the city limits which, according to Lilly, has no phone and no utilities in Jernigan's name.

According to Lilly, Jernigan had no answer for the days or nights he had spent there, and there are no witnesses who can attest to him staying there.

"This leads us to believe that is not his residence," Lilly said. "The police spoke with Jernigan, and everything indicates that he did not reside there."

The initial court hearing was set for Jan. 7. According to Lilly, the defense made a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied by the judge. The judge did, however, grant a defense motion to reset the hearing. The court date has been pushed back to Jan. 24.

If the court finds that Jernigan does not live in the city limits, he will have to return all funds he receives, including paychecks.

Jernigan is following legal advice and giving no comment at this time.

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