By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
Any given election year plenty of questions surrounding candidates surface, the sheriff’s races seem to be more prone to those than others. Since the beginning of the Fulton County Sheriff’s three way race, this has been more than true.
Earlier in the campaign, questions about Sheriff candidate Dallas Montgomery and John Cawvey’s backgrounds surfaced. At a political meet and greet, former Sheriff Albert Roork, for whom Montgomery used to work, inquired about the reason his law enforcement career ended. Montgomery worked as a police officer from March of 2016 until April of 2019 for Mammoth Spring Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Department and the Hardy Police Department.
According to Brad King, Deputy Director with the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, a letter was sent to then Hardy Police Chief Tamara Taylor in April 2019,where Montgomery was working as a full time police sergeant.
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King informed her Montgomery had entered a guilty plea in 1998 to a felony charge of interfering with custody in Greene County, Mo. He explained in his letter that per Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (CLEST) Regulation 1002 (3)(d), he was ineligible to be a law enforcement officer in the state of Arkansas. Montgomery appealed the decision, but ultimately it was upheld by CLEST.
Montgomery said that felony charges in Missouri vary from those in Arkansas in regard to how a conviction is viewed. He explained the charge occurred during his divorce over 20 years earlier. He explained a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) in Missouri is considered a “non conviction.” He and a deputy clerk in Greene County explained that when and if all the conditions are met for the SIS, the record is sealed. In Arkansas, an SIS is simply a conviction without a sentence. This is how it is viewed by CLEST, as a guilty plea on a felony conviction.
Questions about how Montgomery could adequately fulfill the duties of a sheriff in the absence of being a certified law enforcement officer were the main concern of people who have questioned the CLEST determination.
Montgomery filed to run for the elected position of sheriff in Fulton County on Feb.22 and reviewed and signed the Political Practices Form.
Montgomery said, “It is considered a “non-conviction”, you don’t have to declare that when asked, or filing for public office, because it is a non-conviction.” A portion of the pledge states “A prospective candidate for state, district, county, municipal or township office who has had a felony conviction expunged in accordance with Ark. Code Ann.§§ 16-93-301 to 303 or similar expunction statute In another state may certify that he or she has never been convicted of a felony, provided the candidate presents a certificate of expunction from the court that convicted the prospective candidate. See Ark. Code Ann.§ 7-6-102(d) .” The Greene County, Mo. Clerk confirmed there was no criminal record for the date stated in the CLEST report for Montgomery.
He went on to explain how he felt being a police officer and a sheriff were two different things. “Law enforcement Standards has nothing to do with being an elected sheriff. Being elected sheriff is through the constitutional right. I checked with ethics, attorneys and made a multitude of phone calls before I decided to run. The only thing they told me is anyone can run for an office as long as you don’t have a felony of public trust. They told me my file was clean with no convictions on my record and told me the only thing they could do was file a personal lawsuit against me. That isn’t going to do them any good either, because is in the Constitution.”
Montgomery maintains he revealed his conviction and explained the situation before being hired at the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department in March of 2017. He worked for three more years before receiving the CLEST letter.
According to CLEST potential police officers go through a background check through both the State and National Crime Information Center, both of which he would have passed due to his sealed record. It was only in 2019 when CLEST somehow discovered the Missouri offense. Only CLEST can see sealed or expunged criminal records in Arkansas and only then, for a good reason. The Arkansas law is that even if a felony has been sealed or expunged, it is still considered a felony conviction.
When asked if he becomes sheriff how he could legally run criminal histories through the state and national databases, he explained, “That has nothing to do with law enforcement standards, they are both separate entities. I have been certified with ACIC and NCIC and ran reports in the past.”
Montgomery also possesses a conceal and carry permit. While working for the Hardy Police he was involved and later cleared in an officer involved shooting. “It is an obscure rule in Standards if you ever pled to anything even if it is non conviction. I have worked in law enforcement since then. It was brought up after that shooting. If I had one it sure would have came up after that shooting. I am not a loose cannon and never have been. I am very calm, I don’t get wound up. I am the type of person who deals with facts. They can deal with it and they accept it or they can’t. That is just the way the world is. If someone gives me a question, I am going to answer the question, there is no used denying, the truth is the truth,” he explained of the finding.
It is unclear how, if elected he will address the signing and execution of search warrants or have the power of arrest. The office of sheriff is an elected position and there are no pre-qualifications to run, while being a law enforcement officer is ideal and occurs in most situations, it is not required. Brad King with CLEST, verified, “We don’t have any purview over elected officials or constables at Standards. He can be an elected sheriff …but not a commissioned law enforcement officer.”
Montgomery said he fully understood that it was his Constitutional Right to run for the office of Sheriff and he said he plans to continue with his campaign.