- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

EL DORADO, Ark. (AP) - A former county judge was sentenced to 33 months in prison Thursday after admitting he rigged the bidding for federally funded relief work following a 2009 tornado and received money back from a contractor.

Former Ouachita County Judge Mike Hesterly, 50, of Camden, pleaded guilty in June to awarding a contract worth nearly $70,000 to a Bearden contractor and receiving a $4,000 campaign contribution in return. Prosecutors dropped other charges.

In federal court Thursday in El Dorado, a judge sentenced Hesterly to 33 months in prison and one year of supervised release. The contractor, Harry Clemons Jr., 39, was sentenced last month to two years of probation, including four months of home confinement.

The court also ordered restitution.

According to U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge, Hesterly approached Clemons with a plan to give the contractor a cleanup project in exchange for a campaign contribution. Clemons arranged for two other bidders to submit inflated bids to ensure his was selected, according to Eldridge.

Hesterly told the Federal Emergency Management Agency that Clemons was the low bidder and FEMA paid his bill, including $4,000 that Hesterly said was necessary to cover additional debris disposal. Prosecutors said Clemons gave Hesterly the money.

“This type of conduct by a public official offends taxpayers and citizens as well as all of the other public officials who are truly dedicated to their service,” Eldridge said in a statement.

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