HUNTINGTON, Ark. – The western Arkansas town of Huntington, population 688, is without a police force after the only officer was fired last month for what the mayor says was insubordination.
Officer Ryan Stephens was fired by a 3-1 vote of the city council May 25. The vote backed Mayor Craig Cotner's decision to terminate the officer's employment.
Cotner says the city had received several complaints from residents about Stephens. The mayor declined to elaborate on them. He says the town will hire another police officer.
Previous plans to hire a reserve officer are on hold because that would require having someone to supervise the officer, he says.
Stephens' attorney, Kevin Ridgley, says he has sent a letter to the mayor and city attorney, asking that his client be reinstated immediately. Ridgley says he was unaware of residents' complaints about Stephens.
He says Stephens maintains he was fired in retaliation for asking that the city council consider a request that police equipment the mayor has from previous officers, including badges, firearms, radios and uniforms, be returned to the Huntington Police Department.
"It is not the first time something like that happened," Ridgley says.
In 2004, then-Huntington Police Chief Robert Mikles filed a lawsuit against the city, following a dispute over his use of a city-owned car. He was then fired in October 2004.
A Sebastian County jury ruled in his favor. And in 2006, the Arkansas Court of Appeals reversed Mikles' breach of contract award but upheld the wrongful termination award. The court said Mikles had provided substantial evidence he'd been fired in retaliation for filing the lawsuit.