West Fork Police Chief Resigns
West Fork Police Chief John Collins has resigned from his position, officials said.
The resignation comes more than two months after the FBI and other authorities launched an investigation into corruption in West Fork City Hall, as well as issues concerning waste being dumped into the White River from the city’s wastewater treatment facility.
The former police chief submitted a one-sentence letter of resignation on Friday (Aug. 8), said Mayor Charles Rossetti.
The mayor said the former chief’s decision to leave was his own choice, adding that Collins left under “good circumstances.”
A post on the former police chief’s Facebook page on Friday by a person identified as Myrna Collins indicates he is running for City Council. It was unconfirmed late Friday whether he would seek a seat on the council. Also unconfirmed is a statement emailed to 5NEWS by an anonymous source that Collins was pressured into resigning by city leaders who suspect the police department leaked information about city corruption to investigators.
The city of 2,300 residents has a five-person police force, including a police chief. Friday’s resignation brings the size of the police force temporarily down to four officers, the mayor said.
Rossetti said a five-member Police Commission will meet next week to begin seeking a new chief. The commission includes Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder and Sgt. Craig Stout, the Fayetteville Police Department spokesman, according to Rossetti.
The mayor said he will not appoint an interim chief. A sergeant on staff is the current highest-ranking member.
Collins is a former West Fork officer and has been police chief since January 2013, officials said.
In June, Washington County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Denis Dean told 5NEWS that concerned citizens contacted his office in the spring about sewage leaking from the water treatment facility into the White River, as well as corruption at City Hall.
The prosecutor’s office turned that information over to the FBI.
In addition, an anonymous letter sent to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel by a West Fork citizen details claims that city officials intimidate employees and have covered up problems with the sewage plant.
West Fork Utilities Superintendent Butch Bartholomew said the issue with the 40-year-old plant has been temporarily fixed, after it became public in April that waste was being dumped into the White River.
“We had an overflow problem at our waste water treatment that has constantly gotten worse, since the time these were identified but we’ve added additional pumps,” Bartholomew said in June.
Rossetti said in a statement earlier this summer that the city stopped the runoff into the White River in April when it was brought to their attention.
“We’ve had no other overflows, and we’ve had some reported but they are bogus reports, and we’ve looked into those and everything is good to go,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew said city officials have worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality as well as the health department to solve the issue. He said the plant is clear of violations.