|Updated: 6/05/2012 9:55 pm
||Published: 6/05/2012 9:54 pm
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - The mayor and three alderman of an eastern Arkansas town pleaded no contest Tuesday to misdemeanor counts of violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Craighead County Special Judge Orville Clift sentenced Bono Mayor Billy Stephens and Aldermen John Dodd, Leon Hamilton and Jerry Sullins to 30-day suspended sentences. Dodd, Hamilton and Sullins also were fined $250 each and Stephens received a $200 fine. All were ordered to attend an FOIA education class.
The aldermen had pleaded guilty in district court in April but changed their pleas to no contest after reaching agreements with prosecutors, the Jonesboro Sun reported. Stephens had pleaded not guilty earlier.
The cases against the men will be dismissed if they stay out of trouble for one year.
"Go forth and be careful," Clift told Dodd, Hamilton and Sullins as they left the proceeding.
Stephens was accused of meeting with the men to discuss a new police chief in a March 21 gathering that wasn't announced publicly. The Sun filed a complaint after obtaining an audio recording in which one alderman said the meeting wasn't legal but was "between us, between friends."
Stephens and Dodd declined to comment after Tuesday's proceeding.
"It's all over with now," Sullins said Tuesday night when reached for comment. A telephone number for Hamilton rang unanswered.
Deputy Prosecutor David Boling said a requirement that the men attend a FOIA class sponsored by the Arkansas Press Association should help educate them about the law.
"The mayor and the three aldermen are able to not only learn from the mistakes they made, but have the ability to correct and prevent it from occurring in the future," Boling said.
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