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Civil suit filed

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Jonesboro man claims that dual role is an illegal conflict of interest in land Plumlee Land dispute

A Jonesboro man who has been involved in an ongoing land dispute with his neighbors in Viola filed a civil lawsuit Aug. 18 against Fulton County Prosecuting Attorney Dwayne Plumlee.

Paul A. Culbreath alleges that Plumlee's dual roles as county prosecutor, Salem city attorney and Horseshoe Bend District Court judge constitute an illegal conflict of interest, according to a summons filed in the Fulton County Clerk's Office.

The complaint filed by Culbreath's attorney, who was not named in the summons, asks for Plumlee to resign from all three positions and pay back all the money paid to him by the cities and county.

Arkansas state law prohibits a person from drawing a salary from more than one state agency, according to the complaint.

Plumlee was unavailable for comment.

Horseshoe Bend Mayor Bob Spear, who was named in the lawsuit, said he was puzzled by Culbreath's claims.

"A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the guy (Culbreath) informing me that Dwayne's position as the city judge was illegal," Spear said. "And then about a week later he slapped a lawsuit on us."

Spear said Plumlee, who has served as Horseshoe Bend district judge for 26 years, has an excellent work record.

But the city was considering removing Plumlee from the court before the lawsuit was filed, he said.

Plumlee is paid $320 per month to serve as district judge, Spear said. Horseshoe Bend City Attorney Jim Short has been retained by the city to respond to the lawsuit, he said.

Salem Mayor Gary Clayton said he had little to say about the lawsuit.

"This situation will have to be resolved in court," Clayton said.

The Salem City Council voted Sept. 1 to hire Short to represent the city in the case.

"We decided to use Jim (Short) because he's representing Horseshoe Bend in this case and he's familiar with what is going on."

Clayton said Culbreath owns property near Viola.

Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said he didn't know a lot about the lawsuit.

"I read the summons and we turned everything over to our lawyer," Willett said.

Fulton County is represented by attorney Ralph Olm of Hot Springs, Willett said.

Olm was contracted through the Arkansas Public Entities Risk Management Association, an insurance provider for Fulton County, he said.

Attempts to contact Culbreath before press time were unsuccessful.

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