The Faulkner County Election Commission voted 2-1 Friday to seek a ruling from a circuit judge on whether Andy Shock’s appointment to the Arkansas Parole Board leaves him ineligible to run for Justice of the Peace.
Democratic Commissioner Ronnie Hall and Republican Commissioner Paul Foster, who serves as chair and only voted to break the tie, approved the move when Republican Commissioner Ken Fairless voted against it.
Hall made the motion to have a judge rule on Shock’s eligibility.
“I think we would be remiss if we didn’t make sure he was eligible,” he said.
Fairless opposed, forcing Foster to vote.
“I feel that we should go before the judge,” Foster said, noting that even after a thorough explanation from County Attorney David Hogue and a brief rebuttal from Attorney Chris Burks, there seemed to be a lot of confusion about the law. “I don’t think we’re going to settle this unless we go to a black robe.”
Burks represents Shelly Carpenter who filed a complaint Wednesday with the commission arguing that it “is illegal to serve on the parole board and the [quorum] court at the same time.”
Carpenter is Johnny Brady’s daughter. Brady is the current District 10 JP and is seeking re-election. If a circuit judge rules Shock eligible, he will face off against Brady for the Republican nomination in the May 22 primary election.
Shock, who resigned as Faulkner County Sheriff in August 2015 when Gov. Asa Hutchinson first appointed him to the parole board, was reappointed to the board last month.
Carpenter attached a case from 1963, Starnes v. Sadler, with the complaint.
Hogue said that case made it clear that the parole board is a civil service but not much else.
“That case came down under the prior law ... Arkansas Constitution Article 5, Section 10,” he previously told the Log Cabin.
In 2016, Arkansas adopted Amendment 95, which states: “A person elected or appointed to any of the following county offices shall not, during the term for which he or she has been elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in this state ...”
One of the 10 county offices listed is Justice of the Peace.
Hogue told the commission and audience members Friday the legislative language is vital.
“There is a difference between running for an office, being appointed or elected to an office and holding that office. This is the magic language of Amendment 95 of 2016,” he said. “Andy Shock is holding a state civil office, no question about that.
“It does not say if you are elected or appointed to a state civil office then you can’t run for a county office. To me, it doesn’t say you can’t hold both offices.
“If you’re already a JP, you can’t run for civil office. It only runs one way.”
In other words, if Shock had been elected as a JP before being appointed to the parole board, he would have had to choose, just as he did when he stepped down as sheriff in 2015.
Because Shock was a parole board member first and then filed to run for county office, Hogue said he thinks the law doesn’t prohibit it.
Hogue presented other state laws that used the words “running for office,” “holding an office” and “being appointed or elected to office” as well as laws that, not pertaining to this matter, prohibits someone from holding specific dual positions. He argued that if the legislature’s intent was to prevent a civil service office holder from running for office, it would have included that language.
“The legislature uses different language when it means something different. Language matters,” he said. “They chose what word they used and they used it carefully.”
After the meeting, Burks, in an emailed statement to the Log Cabin Democrat, praised the commission’s decision.
“The vote by the Election Commission to send this matter to Court is great for voters,” Burks said. “Andy Shock should save taxpayers’ money and drop out. If Shock stays in the race [it] forces the County to spend money to go to Court as it voted to do. We are confident a Court will see the clear conflict of interest and order that Shock cannot double-dip and get paid by the state and the county at the same time.”
Hogue said the filing fee will be $165. He plans to file in circuit court Monday morning.
Shock, in an emailed statement to the Log Cabin Democrat, said: "I checked the legalities before filing and wouldn’t have filed if it weren’t legal. I will respect the judge’s decision, irregardless of what the decision is, but I have full faith the judge will agree with me, and the county attorney, David Hogue. I would have more respect for my opponent if he had filed the complaint himself, instead of having his daughter file it. I believe the voters of District 10 should decide who they want to represent them on the Quorum Court."
The Log Cabin will continue to follow this story.