Ouachita County Judge Mike Hesterly, charged in Jan. 2013 with federal conspiracy and bribery counts in what prosecutors say was a scheme to trade FEMA disaster clean-up funds for a campaign contribution, has announced he will resign effective April 3, citing “health problems, current circumstances and other concerns.”
As we reported in January 2013, Federal Prosecutors for the Western District of Arkansas say that beginning in March 2010, Hesterly and contractor Harry Clemons, Jr. conspired to make sure Clemons would be awarded a contract for debris clean-up following an October 2009 tornado cluster that saw two funnels touch down in Ouachita County. Federal investigators say that Clemons arranged for inflated bids from two other companies, then submitted his own, lower, bid to Hesterly. Clemons’ company eventually received $69,865 in funds supplied to Ouachita County through FEMA. In exchange, prosecutors say, Clemons made a contribution of over $5,000 to Hesterly’s 2010 re-election campaign for County Judge.
The indictment charges Hesterly and Clemons with one count each of conspiracy to defraud an agency of the United States, and two counts each of bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds. They each face a maximum term of 5 years on the conspiracy count, and 10 years for each count of bribery. Both Hesterly and Clemons have said they are innocent of the charges, and have pled not guilty. Hesterly’s trial is set for August.