Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington said Thursday that his office has not contacted the Arkansas State Police to investigate an allegedly fraudulent letter sent to a voter in Hot Springs Village during the race for the Republican nomination for Saline County Circuit Clerk in May of this year.
The two candidates in the race were incumbent Dennis Milligan, who was successful in his re-election bid, and his challenger, Myka Bono Sample.
The letter in question ignited a controversy one week following the start of early voting and one week before the May 22 preferential primary election.
When asked about the status of the investigation on Thursday, Pennington said his investigator, Lt. Mike Frost, did not refer the investigation to the Arkansas State Police.
"We contacted the postal inspectors," Frost said today. "They looked at the letter and the envelope. With the postmark being generic out of Little Rock, they said there was nothing they could do with it. They also said that since we didn't have any leads, it would be a very difficult case to prosecute."
Frost said there has been nothing tangible to refer to the prosecutor's office.
"If we get calls (pertinent to the investigation), we'll chase them down, but right now there's nothing to go on," he said.
Prosecuting Attorney Ken Casady said today that he has never been asked to assume the case because there is nothing to prosecute at this juncture. If anyone should be arrested in conjunction with the incident, his office will prosecute the individual/individuals, he said.
The letter involved in the controversy originally was emailed to a member of the Republican Party in Hot Springs Village, who transmitted it to additional residents of the village. The letter bears the alleged signature of Bono Sample and included language that Bono Sample said was intended to hurt her campaign.
In response to the letter, the Saline County Election Commission held a press conference in mid-May. During the meeting — and previously — Bono Sample denied writing the letter. She said she did not sign the document nor did she have any knowledge of its authorship.
The letter included a section that claimed she intended to "return to my Democrat roots and change my party back to what it has always been: Democrat."
Another section stated: "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!"
The letter involved in the probe also mentioned Doug Curtis and Kime Eubanks, who were Republican candidates for Saline County clerk; Sheriff Bruce Pennington and his Republican challenger, James Ward; and Assessor Jim Crawford and his Democratic 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!"
In reviewing the epistle and events that led to the news conference, Carlisle addressed the author's comment about "controlling the elections process."
During the conference, Lib Carlisle, chairman of the Election Commission, said the U.S. Postal Service would be sending an investigator to conduct an investigation into the authorship and mailing of the letter.
On Aug. 8, The Saline Courier contacted Daniel Medrano of the U.S. Postal Inspectors office in Little Rock to inquire about the status of the probe. His response was: "We don't investigate local or state matters —only issues that involve federal government officials."
Medrano stated that his office knew in advance that his inspectors would not be involved. When asked if his office had received the letter, Medrano said, "We don't have the evidence. The detective has it."
Medrano also stated that neither he nor anyone else in his office had seen the letter.
On Aug. 13, the Courier contacted Frost, who stated that he had "talked to the Postal Service." At that time he said the agency was "still investigating, but not making much progress."
Frost was the only detective assigned to the case.
Upon learning of the status of the investigation, Sample told the Courier, "I'm really disappointed. Saline County deserves better."
Saline Courier senior editor Lynda Hollenbeck also contributed to this account.