Sebastian County Election Commission chairman to face eligibility investigation

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,102 views 

An investigation is set to begin Monday to determine if Sebastian County Election Commission Chairman Jason Vineyard is legally able to hold the appointed position with the body that plays a key role in governing the county’s election process.

According to a report first published by 40/29 News, Vineyard was charged in 2002 with felony overdraft after writing more than $20,000 in hot checks. The court records show he was ordered to pay restitution, court cost and other fees. However, Vineyard has not fully paid restitution and other fines, and his case remains active.

Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue on Saturday (Sept. 10) confirmed with Talk Business & Politics that Vineyard is a convicted felon and his case does remain active. Shue also said Sebastian County Clerk Sharon Brooks asked him to determine if Vineyard is eligible to serve on the commission.

“The clerk has asked me to research the issue to see if he is a convicted felon for purposes of the voting laws,” Shue said. “And I will begin to do that Monday.”

Attempts to contact Vineyard were not successful.

Arkansas law mandates that in January of each odd-numbered year, three members of the county board of election commissioners are named. Two of the members come from the county committee of the majority party, and one member from the county committee of the minority party. A majority party, as determined by state law, is the political party with the majority of candidates elected to the state’s constitutional offices. Arkansas has seven constitutional offices, and all are now held by members of the Republican Party of Arkansas.

When asked if or how a person is vetted before being appointed to the election commission, Shue said there is “a laundry list of people” who should do that to ensure a qualified person is appointed. Vineyard was elected to the commission by the Sebastian County Republican Party. He succeeded David Damron who resigned in January.

News of the investigation into Vineyard’s status follows recent headlines from a body not often in the news. Dr. Terisa Riley, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith chancellor, on Sept. 7 rescinded the university’s proposal for a voting location on the campus. Riley’s action came after it was learned Commissioner Cara Gean would again oppose the plan. Gean has offered no reason for her opposition, including not communicating with the other two commissioners.

UAFS officials had worked with commission staffers since early August on a voting site. The commission canceled called meetings on Tuesday and Thursday followed an Aug. 29 commission meeting in which Gean voted against the UAFS location without explanation.