Two Helena-West Helena council members arrested for abusing their powers

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HELENA-WEST HELENA -- "The message that we're trying to send to the public is nobody is above the law."

Two Helena-West Helena city leaders have been charged with two crimes.

Alderman John Huff and Christopher Franklin were accused of abusing of power and prohibited actions by municipal officials.

"They used their positions as elected officials to not pay their bills in full," said Police Chief Virgil Green. He added that the allegations are disturbing.

He said the two weren't paying their water bills on time and even demanded special treatment from local utilities to keep their services from being shut off.

Both men, according to police, wrote bad checks and also skipped payments yet their water service was not affected.

Police Chief Virgil Green said the average water bill for each man was around $70 a month and each is paid $800 per month as an alderman.

WREG's Michael Quander spoke with Alderman Franklin on Monday.

"Did you abuse your position? Did you abuse power?"

"No. No, because how can you abuse power? You abuse power when somebody comes and turns your water off. Mine was never turned off."

He admitted to being behind on his bill, but said he never used his position to avoid penalties.

"I'm a busy person. You know? I mean we all are human. We all make mistakes ."

He said the charges only surfaced after he and Alderman Huff held Chief Green accountable for crime in the city during a recent City Council meeting.

"Do you feel like this is retaliation?"

"It is because if you go back and look at the council meeting you'll see that I said, 'We want to speak freely without any retaliation.'"

But Chief Green said the investigation started several months before that incident even occurred.

Alderman Huff didn't answer when we tried to get his side of the story.

According to Green, he is also on probation from a previous misdemeanor conviction in District Court in Phillips County that involved an incident with a local radio station owner and this could be a violation of the terms and conditions of his probation.