Former Pope County judge challenges local casino ordinance | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Former Pope County judge challenges local casino ordinance

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 2:55 PM

Jim Ed Gibson, the former Pope County judge who gave lame-duck approval to Mississippi casino operators should they apply for a license in Arkansas, has asked that a lawsuit against him over his letter of approval be dismissed.

Gibson notes he's no longer a county judge. It's also worth noting that rules for casino licenses likely will render his letter meaningless by saying local approval can come only from local officials in office when an application is made.

But Gibson also tries to shoehorn arguments that a local ordinance aimed at discouraging a Pope County casino is unconstitutional. He argues it's unconstitutional to add a burden — a local referendum — not provided for in Amendment 100, which expanded casino gambling. He argues further that the ordinance requires approval by a majority of registered voters, a nearly impossible burden and beyond a constitutional rule that says only majorities of those voting are required for ballot measures. Based on turnout in the election that passed the local casino ordinance, a 95 percent vote would have been necessary to meet the standard.

I'm not sure this case as filed can reach the constitutional questions about the local ordinances.

But for your reading pleasure, here's Gibson's motion, which also includes many laudatory remarks about the Mississippi casino operators.

By the way: My efforts to get communications to and from Gibson about the casino during his final days in office — communications that I've been told could be interesting — have been fruitless so far. Ben Cross, the new county judge, wrote me in response to my FOI request for Gibson records that they are under Gibson's "custody and control."

He said the county judge's office was "virtually barren when I took office." Gibson has not answered my calls and emails.

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