April 22, 2006 - Posted at 1:03 p.m. CST
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (AP) _ Seven former city officials have
pleaded innocent to felony theft charges for cashing checks for
work this year for a city that no longer exists.
The former West Helena officials entered the pleas in Phillips
County Circuit Court. A hearing in the case was set for May 12th
and a trial was scheduled for May 15th.
In January, the adjacent cities of West Helena and Helena merged
to become Helena-West Helena.
Before the merger, the West Helena City Council approved salary
and other pay for its members for 2006. Prosecutor Fletcher Long
says the city officials committed theft by cashing the checks.
Former West Helena Mayor Johnny Weaver cashed two checks, and
former City Clerk Renee Whitfield cashed one. Five former aldermen
each cashed two checks -- one for 33-hundred dollars, as their
salary for 2006, and another for three-thousand dollars as
Meanwhile, a Phillips County grand jury has met several times
since convening April Third. The grand jury is investigating
whether actions last year by members of the West Helena City
Council and the Helena-West Helena School Board violated state law.