Comments from a Democratic candidate for Sebastian County judge position have brought a strong reaction from the chair of his own party, although the candidate downplayed the incident.
Debi Council, chairwoman of the Sebastian County Democratic Party, said Ken Blevins made a threatening remark about her a few months ago. Blevins is running for the county judge position against fellow Democrat Mosie Boyd in the May 22 primary.
Council said Blevins called her Jan. 12 and told her he wanted to run on the Democratic ticket. She told him the Democrats did not want that because he was a Republican, and they felt he needed to run on the Republican ticket or as an independent. Council said she was going to have to call the Democratic Party of Arkansas in Little Rock to see what to do officially about him running on the Democratic ticket.
However, about 45 minutes later that same evening, Council received a call from another person Blevins knew as well.
"And Ken had called and talked to this person and in the process of asking him was there someone else that he could go to to get, like, ... the answer of yes that he wanted, and this person told him no, that I was the chair and that my decision would stand, and Ken made the comment to this person, 'Oh, I guess I'm just going to have to go rough her up then,'" Council said.
Council said Blevins repeated this comment three different times when prompted three different times. When the other person reported this to her, she was shocked and concerned due to her being a single woman living in Sebastian County, as well as a Democrat who is not too difficult to find. However, when she confronted Blevins about the incident a few days later, Blevins reportedly said he was only kidding.
Blevins said he was joking when he remarked to Gary Grimes, former Sebastian County sheriff and member of the Sebastian County Democratic party, about roughing up Council.
"It's not even noteworthy," Blevins said. "I just wanted her to answer her phone, and I've never made any attempts to hurt Debi, I never touched her, or whatever else, and I've never made any threatening comments to her, and I'd even apologized that if that comment was offensive to you, I'm sorry."
Blevins also disputed the timeline Council gave in regards to when the phone calls took place.
"There's about 15 phone conversations that she did not answer between the first time I had talked to her, and when I talked to Gary Grimes," Blevins said. "She ignored over, like, two or three weeks of phone calls where I could not get ahold of her. That's the whole reason I called Gary Grimes. I was given her phone number by (Sebastian County Election Commissioner) Lee Webb, and I called her, and then when she realized my phone number, she never answered that phone number ever again. That's why I had to call Gary. It was basically, 'What do I have to do to get her to answer the phone?'"
Grimes confirmed Blevins talked about roughing up Council during a phone conversation with him in January. He called Council afterward and told her about it. Although he does not remember the part about Blevins repeating the comment three different times, Grimes said Blevins claimed he was kidding when he asked him about it.
"It wasn't that I felt like that he was going to harm her in some way," Grimes said. "I really didn't think that. I just thought, 'Gosh, that's not a good thing to say,' and that's really all I thought about it. I didn't think about anything more about it."
Blevins served one term as Sebastian County Circuit Clerk beginning January 2011. According to articles previously published in the Times Record, by April 2011, six deputy clerks filed complaints with the county human resources department accusing Blevins of sexual harassment, retaliation and creating a hostile work environment. In May 2011, a county grievance committee found Blevins sexually harassed the deputy clerks and subjected them to a hostile work environment.
In November 2011, Blevins fired two deputy clerks, only to be forced to reinstate them in December after a county grievance committee determined he had fired them for constitutionally protected activity. All six Sebastian County circuit court judges signed an order directing him to do so after Blevins refused.
Blevins filed a lawsuit against Hudson in July 2013, claiming that Sebastian County Judge David Hudson used the county grievance process and the courts to undermine public confidence in him and replace him through recall or in an election, according to previous Times Record articles. The lawsuit was later dismissed.