A campaign letter circulated among Republican voters in Hot Springs Village last May created a controversy regarding the origin of the letter and the individual/individuals responsible its mailing.
The letter, appearing to be written on letterhead from the Myka Bono Sample campaign, contained statements regarding several political campaigns that were ongoing at the time.
Sample, who was challenging incumbent Dennis Milligan for the Saline County Circuit Clerk's position at the time, said she did not write the letter and it did not come from her campaign.
Alleging the letter to be a forgery, Sample filed a complaint with the Saline County Election Commission.
During a news conference in May, Lib Carlisle, chairman of the Election Commission, announced that the U.S. Postal Service would be sending an investigator to conduct a probe into the authorship and mailing of the letter that bore the alleged signature of Sample. During the meeting — and previously — Sample denied writing the letter. She said she did not sign the document nor did she have any knowledge of its authorship.
Sample, a former employee of the Saline County Circuit Clerk's Office, said she believes whoever wrote the letter and subsequently mailed it to a Republican Party member in Hot Springs Village intended to hurt her campaign. The individual who received the letter, assuming it was ordinary campaign material, reportedly transmitted the letter by email to other members of the Republican Party in Hot Springs Village.
The Saline Courier recently conducted an investigation into the status of the letter by contacting the Postal Service and the Saline County Sheriff's Office and by requesting comments from individuals mentioned in the letter.
Excerpts from the letter includes a section that claims Sample intended to "return to my Democrat roots and change my party back to what it has always been: Democrat."
Another section states: "My friend and former boss, Doug Kidd, recommended that I run as a Republican so we could defeat Dennis Milligan, who ran the dirtiest campaign in county history two years ago against Doug. It is payback time!"
Milligan did not attend the news conference conducted by the Election Commission and presided over by Carlisle. After the meeting had adjourned, Jim Harris, Milligan's chief of staff, told The Saline Courier that "Dennis is in his office doing his job," but would be available for comments if needed.
The letter involved in the probe also mentions Doug Curtis and Kime Eubanks, who were candidates for Saline County clerk; Sheriff Bruce Pennington and his challenger, James Ward; and Assessor Jim Crawford and his challenger, James Terry Steed.
The author of the missive called Pennington "the greatest traitor to the Democratic Party" and urged voters to vote for Ward "and send Pennington into retirement for switching to the Republican Party."
It also encouraged voters to support Curtis for county clerk. A section stated: "Kime Eubanks is a preacher turned politician. He is the last thing this county needs controlling the elections process. Please vote for Doug Curtis!"
On Aug. 8, Daniel Medrano of the Postal Inspection office was contacted by the Saline Courier and was asked about the status of the letter investigation. Medrano replied, "We have not received the letter. We don't investigate local or state election issues. We only investigate federal government officials. We knew that in advance."
On the same day, Detective Gary Robertson of the Saline County Sheriff's Office was asked about the status of the investigation. Robertson responded to a Saline Courier query by saying, "Who asked you to call me?"
When informed that the call was a follow-up for a story, Robertson said he was not familiar with the case and said he wasn't sure "what he could tell" the Courier representative.
He said he would check with his supervisors and call back. He later sent an email indicating that his supervisor, Lt. Mike Frost, was on vacation until Aug. 13 and would be the appropriate contact at the sheriff's office.
On Aug. 13 Frost told the Saline Courier that the investigation had included "several interviews, but nothing has been traced back yet. We are still investigating, but we are not making much headway."
Sheriff Bruce Pennington was contacted about the status of the investigation as well as for comments about the letter. Pennington responded by saying, "We are contacting the Arkansas State Police to see if they will investigate the letter in question. I think the letter was intended to hurt several elections."
On Aug. 15, the Saline Courier asked Pennington for clarity in the story and posed several questions, including: "When were the State Police contacted? Who is the contact person? If they have not been contacted, when will they be?"
Pennington told the Courier that he would "get you that information soon."
Dennis Milligan responded to a request for comments by saying, "I have not been contacted about the letter by any investigating agency. If I am contacted, I will cooperate fully. This poorly forged letter is dirty politics. It was written with the intent of making it look as if I sent it out, which I did not."
Kime Eubanks said the letter opened his eyes about politics. "I stayed fairly quiet on the letter during the campaign because the author of the letter wanted attention and got it. Saline County would have been better off if we had all wadded it up and tossed it in the trash. Our county is already the butt of jokes around the state as being the county with the most notorious and dirty politics.
"This will not end until enough people are tired of the good-ol'-boy system and just elect candidates on the merit of their character, values, and service. We have some very solid, honest, outstanding people in leadership in Saline County and the tide is turning, or at least I hope it is."
Doug Curtis, who was campaigning for county clerk at the time the letter was sent, has continued to state his displeasure with the letter. Curtis told the Saline Courier this week that the letter "contained inaccurate information that was sent with a malicous intent to influence voters. This is a fraudulent letter that should be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law so that people understand that there are consequences for wrongful actions."
Myka Bono Sample provided this statement: "I absolutely believe the investigation is warranted. Someone obtained a copy of my letterhead and forged my signature on a letter that I did not write. This fraudulent act was committed in an effort to tarnish my good reputation and blatantly mischaracterize my thoughts and opinions.
"Whoever took my letterhead and forged my signature did so in an effort to grossly mislead Saline County voters about me. Clearly, their aim in concentrating the circulation of the phony letter in Hot Springs Village was to impact my votes in those precincts.
"Do I think the investigation is at a dead-end? I certainly hope not. I have followed up with the postal inspector and they do not have the letter or envelope as was previously stated by authorities. The postal inspector explained that they were very interested in investigating, but since the contest was not for a state or national office, the matter was out of their jurisdiction and must be handled by the local prosecutor or the State Police."
**Printed earlier today in the Saline Courier. A selection of our local stories is available online, but for complete news coverage, subscribe to our print edition today!