By John Balch
An investigation by the Arkansas Attorney General’s office of Public Integrity Division in 2021 has resulted in the arrest of Glenwood Mayor Billy “BT” Smith, 72, on felony charges.
The arrest was announced last week via press release by AG Leslie Rutledge.
“A thorough investigation showed that Smith abused state and city resources in August 2021 when he hired a private company to transport almost $4,000 worth of asphalt millings leftover from the Arkansas Highway 70 resurfacing project to his home and that of his son-in-law for purposes of resurfacing their private driveways,” according to the release.
Smith, who became mayor in January 2019, surrendered to special agents at the Pike County Jail last week and was released on $2,500 bond. He was arrested on suspicion of felony theft of property and felony abuse of office.
Prosecuting Attorney Erin Hunter of De Queen confirmed last week that the case has been assigned to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Al Smith of Little River County for consideration of charges.
According to case documents, the investigation of Smith began in 2021 and involved leftover asphalt millings from a state road project on Highway 70.
“According to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ADOT), roadway millings have to be inventoried and cannot be sold by the State of Arkansas, but there are occasions when the millings are ‘gifted’ and become property of a contractor when it is determined that it is too costly for ADOT to transport the millings to a central location. Additionally, when the millings become the property of the contractor, the contractor can sell the asphalt millings with the price of $5-$10 a ton.”
During the course of the investigation, information was received that “Smith took possession of the millings that were stored on city property and used these millings to resurface his personal driveway and the personal drive of his son-in-law” on Dillard Road.
The case report also notes that Glenwood City Council members were not aware of the mayor’s alleged actions nor did he have permission to use the material for personal use.
The contractor involved, DB Hill, told investigators that he contacted Mayor Smith about storing the leftover material on city property and it was agreed there would be no rental fee. Hill then related a “suspicious event” where he said he received a letter from the mayor “explaining how he received the asphalt millings.”
“DB Hill became suspicious as to the timing of this letter because the asphalt millings had been left on city property in the winter of 2020,” according to case documents.
Hill was asked to sign the letter, and he did, but reported he nows “regrets signing the letter because the asphalt millings are not to be given to private citizens and now understands that this letter was an attempt by the mayor to justify his actions of using the asphalt millings for his own personal use.”
When confronted with the letter to Hill, Smith said he had a prior conversation with the city attorney about a complaint raised by citizen Buddy Green and the letter was written in response to Green’s complaint.
Another citizen, Stanley Beck, had texted the mayor questioning whether the millings could be used on a section of his roadway and was told by the mayor he would have to charge him what he was charged by contractor Chris Tigue and that he had purchased 30 loads of the material one year ago and had just acquired the money to have the material transported to his property.
Concerning the text exchange with Beck, Smith admitted that he told Beck he “paid for” the millings but admitted that comment was not a true statement and was told to Beck “to keep him off my butt” and “to keep him from harassing me.”
Theft of property and abuse of office are both class D felonies.
As of Tuesday morning, no charges have been filed in Pike County against Mayor Smith.
On Monday morning, Smith’s personal attorney William O. James, Jr., issued the following statement:
“The sad part about this case is that, even though the Attorney General’s investigation may have talked to quite a few people, they either talked to the wrong ones or didn’t listen to the answers. Since I have not seen the first bit of evidence, we will wait to comment on the allegations specifically. I am confident the truth will come out and the facts will make clear that the mayor is nothing more than an honest man and a long time public servant.”