Chamber director fired, formal charges have not been filed

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Updated: January 26, 2018

By Quinton Bagley

Little River News

Former Little River County Chamber of Commerce Director Fonda Hawthorne made her first court appearance before Circuit Court Judge Tom Cooper on Thursday, January 18, at the Sevier County Courthouse in De Queen.

Hawthorne is accused of using the Chamber’s debit card to make personal purchases totaling more than $10,000. No charges have been filed by the prosecuting attorney’s office.

During the court appearance, Cooper set bond at $7,500 and told Hawthorne that she needed to return to Ashdown and turn herself in at the Little River County Sheriff’s Office where she was booked into the county jail.

According to court records, a bank in Ashdown notified a Chamber board member about some suspicious activity on the Chamber’s debt card. Hawthorne was later terminated from her position at the Chamber and an investigation begun into the accusations.

Chamber President Danny Young released the following press release on Tuesday, January 23.

“On behalf of my fellow Board of Directors of the Little River Chamber of Commerce, I would like to say that we are extremely saddened at the recent allegations and subsequent arrest of our former Director. This was a person whom we trusted to carry out our mission and someone with considerable public service.

We, as Board members, pledge to our membership that you will see a new, revitalized Chamber in the coming weeks. Here are a few of the changes:

– Implementation of significant, stricter rules for our oversight and audit functions

– A strong push to renew and revitalize our relationships with Chamber Members

– A “listening campaign” to hear from our membership and the community

– New leadership in the Chamber office: we have brought in Kirk Babb, former

President of First Guaranty Insurance Company, as Interim Director to examine and improve all aspects of Chamber functions.

I promise that the Little River Chamber of Commerce will be working hard to fulfill its mission of positive growth by providing networking resources, timely information and good relationships for all businesses, current and future, in Little River County.”

Hawthorne is scheduled to appear in the Little River County Circuit Court on Tuesday, January 30 for her formal arraignment.