- Associated Press - Saturday, August 8, 2020

The man who served as mayor of Alpena for the past year and a half never was mayor.

Theron McCammond’s house is outside the Alpena city limits, but neither he nor the people of Alpena knew that when they elected him mayor in 2018.

McCammond told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he got a call from Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge on Friday telling him that he wasn’t mayor and never had been.

McCammond wasn’t surprised. He’d figured it out a few days earlier.

McCammond went to Monday’s Alpena Town Council meeting and turned in his keys.

“I’m done,” he said Wednesday. “I’m going to go to a horse show this weekend.”

Alpena, population 392, straddles the line between Boone and Carroll counties in the Ozark Mountains.

The council voted unanimously for Alderman A.J. Womack to serve the remainder of McCammond’s term as mayor, until 2022.

Womack said the council had learned of McCammond’s lack of Alpena status last week, after he asked the city to de-annex his property, but as it turns out his property was never annexed.

A petition drive was already underway to oust McCammond as mayor. Supporters of the drive were trying to get the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot.

McCammond’s mayorship had been contentious ever since a tree disappeared from Alpena City Park last year.

The tree, planted in honor of a deceased fire chief, apparently blocked a new light installed at the park.

Suspecting that he had a hand in its removal, the council voted unanimously on Nov. 21 to request McCammond’s resignation.

McCammond refused to resign and publicly admitted no part in the removal of Walt Record’s memorial tree.

Womack said McCammond did other things that rankled the council. He fired several city employees, bought a police car without council approval and spent $30,000 for water meters all at once. The council had approved buying the meters over three years, at $10,000 per year.

On April 8, 2019, McCammond contacted the Boone County sheriff’s office to tell them a clerk had been turning in two mileage vouchers for each trip to the bank. She worked for two different city offices - the Alpena district court and the Water Department.

Phyllis McNair had been overpaid $3,715 for 266 duplicate mileage reimbursements between 2014-19, according to a state audit.

Ethredge didn’t file criminal charges against McNair. He said it would have been very difficult to get a conviction based on information from previous Mayor Bobbie Bailey and district court judge, neither of whom believed that McNair had committed any criminal act. Ethredge said McNair kept meticulous records regarding her mileage, obviously not trying to hide anything.

Womack, 26, said he got on the town council because he didn’t like the way McCammond was picking on McNair.

“Phyllis McNair is a spectacular woman, and I couldn’t stand to see her treated that way,” Womack said.

Womack said he doesn’t know how McCammond was allowed to run if he didn’t live in the city. McCammond had asked the city to annex his property in 2017, but as it turns out it never happened.

Womack said there are still many questions to be answered.

“If he was never legally mayor, there was just a vacancy in office,” Womack said. “Is everything he did void?”

In most cases, the things McCammond did as mayor required a vote of the council, so they were be legitimate actions under the law, Womack said.

McCammond said he spent much of his tenure as mayor trying to root out corruption in City Hall.

“I’m glad to be done with the whole corrupt political environment that is now back in Alpena,” he said Wednesday.

Knowing the petition drive was underway, McCammond held a news conference last month saying he would resign if the city de-annexed his property first.

“I’m not leaving my property inside those city limits so they could tell me what I could and couldn’t do,” he said.

But now, the de-annexation is apparently unnecessary.

McCammond said he paid $38 in Alpena property taxes in 2018, but he guesses he’ll let the city keep that.

“Well, Merry Christmas!” he said.

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