Councilman says he's not moved yet

By Ed Brock

Jonesboro City Councilman Clifford "Rip" Sewell may have a "For Sale" sign in front of his house, but he says he's not going anywhere yet.

"I have plans from two places right here in Jonesboro to live," Sewell said.

In fact, the sign also says the house is under contract but Sewell said he hasn't closed the deal.

Some Jonesboro residents have taken issue with Sewell, saying they believe he's already changed residences to his house in Ola in Henry County.

"I think if he's moved he needs to at least quit voting on issues," said Jon Crane, a member of the civic group Jonesboro Pride.

Sewell said he does own a house in Ola but his primary residence continues to be the house on Fayetteville Road where he registered his vehicles and even still keeps his dogs.

"I have as much right to sell my house as anybody in these United States," Sewell said. "I will resign right before I change my city of residence."

Sewell said his critics are just trying to force a special election. Jonesboro Pride member Nancy Coffman said that's not true, they just don't want him to vote on city issues if he doesn't live in the city.

"I don't care if he just sits up there and doesn't vote," Coffman said.

Coffman also said she doesn't live in Jonesboro, either, but she does own some commercial property there.

Jonesboro Pride formed after the city voted to dissolve its volunteer fire department last year and the group is composed of people who opposed that decision. Sewell voted to keep the fire department but since then he has declined requests from citizens to make a motion for the termination of Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker.

He also refused to second such a motion.

"I will not second a motion to fire somebody who is doing a good job," Sewell said.

Walker said Sewell would have to resign if he was no longer a resident of the city. As for what qualifies him as a resident, Walker said it could be several things, such as being a homeowner with their homestead tax exemption registered in the city or just someone who receives their bills in the city.

"Even people who rent can be a resident," Walker said.

If Sewell did resign from the council now the city would not have time to hold an individual special election since that would have to be on Sept. 20, said Joanie Jones, city clerk and election supervisor.

"We'd have to call for a special election, but we could have it with the November ballot," Jones said.

Walker said that the seats for council members Rick Yonce, Wallace Norrington and Yvette McDonald will be open for the November election.

Also, previously there was a tag on Sewell's "For Sale" sign that indicated the property was potentially commercial. Sewell said that was only because several properties near by are zoned for commercial use.

"It's not selling as commercial," Sewell said. "What the buyer does with it after is not my business."

That tag has been removed from the sign.