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West Memphis revisited 

Race-divided city now finds blacks pitted against one another.

Page 5 of 7

On Oct. 26, 2011, Roger C. Vann, CEO of the national NAACP, wrote members that the board of directors had voted to "suspend the charter of the Crittenden County Branch pursuant to Article XI of the Bylaws ..."

Van said, "The National Office has been forwarded several inappropriate communications published in the local newspaper which misrepresented how the NAACP does its work in the community. This abuse was clearly a misuse of the NAACP brand and trademark which has precipitated the action now being taken. Our hope is that in the future we can reactivate the branch."

Since then, the national NAACP has formally intervened in the case and contends that Hill did not have jurisdiction to enter any orders. As of Nov. 7, no final hearing had been scheduled. What had started as a protest against alleged police misconduct would become a much broader campaign against what the reformers saw as corruption on a number of fronts. Given their prior experience with Dale Charles in the 2004 Crittenden County NAACP election, clearly the reformers had taken care to insure that a new election would have different results. A cynic might conclude that with Charles out of the way, Africa's election could hardly have been fair. Attempts to reach Charles and Catha-Jones for comment for this story were unsuccessful.

Besides the judge's ruling, however, evidence that it was an honest and fair election comes from a participant who, in light of his subsequent actions, can only be described an as impartial observer. In his recent interview, James Pulliaum says he knows it was a fair election because he helped count the votes; he'd been asked by Hubert Bass for help.

Afrika was also a candidate for the city council election Nov. 6. Though he remains a member of the Crittenden County NAACP, Pulliaum did not support Afrika for the city council. He acknowledged he voted for Afrika for president of the NAACP, but says that he has only attended one or two meetings during the time Catha-Jones or Afrika has been president. In his opinion, neither individual reached out to the membership. Pulliaum made no secret that he was a supporter of one of Afrika's opponents in the city council election. The council needs young people, he said.

The reformers condemn in the harshest terms the electoral corruption that exists in the Crittenden County black community. The Evening Times regularly chronicles allegations and convictions of electoral fraud. As merely one example, a special election in 2011 for the vacated House District 54 seat that covers much of Crittenden County has resulted in convictions in federal court for a conspiracy that involved payoffs and other abuses involving absentee ballots. Pleading guilty were the winner, Hudson Hallum, and his father, Kent Hallum, West Memphis City Councilman Phillip Carter and Sam Malone, who was serving as a West Memphis police officer, quorum court justice and West Memphis School Board member. Five other charges in state court arising out of the investigation have been filed against Crittenden County Quorum Court and Earle School Board member Eric Cox, fellow JP Lorenzo Parker, who is the West Memphis Parks and Recreation director, and three other defendants: Leroy Grant, Amos Sanders and Lisa Burns.

All but two of the defendants in the 2011 special-election scandal are black. On Sept. 9, 2012, the Evening Times reported that "The Hallums, Carter and Malone admitted that some ballots voting for Hallum's opponents were destroyed and also admitted that votes were purchased for such items as chicken dinners and they sought out discounts on half-pints of vodka to help out the campaign."

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