What is going on in Drew County? If you’ve ever needed a story to prove why local elections matter, this is it. We’re hearing a lot about corruption, racism, and intimidation from the sheriff’s department in the southeast Arkansas county, so let’s break it down.
It all starts with the ousting of the former sheriff, Mark Gober. Mark Gober was sheriff of Drew County from 2005-2022. Gober sought re-election in 2022, but only received 24.6 percent of the vote and didn’t make it to the runoff.
Marquis Martin was a Black man that went missing in February 2020, and his body was found that March. His killer has still not been apprehended, and many community members are frustrated at the lack of transparency surrounding the case. It is a well known rumor in the area that Gober’s sons may have been involved in the death of Marquis Martin.
This disdain towards Gober allowed for the rise of Drew County’s new and current sheriff, Tim Nichols. Tim Nichols is the son of Ronald Nichols, who has previously served as sheriff in Chicot County; Tim beat James Slaughter in a runoff in the 2022 election. It’s important to note that James Slaughter was Chief Deputy at the time of Marquis Martin’s murder, and his campaign was partly funded by Mike Huckabee’s mega political action committee, Huck PAC.
On the campaign trail, Nichols made the promise that once elected, Jerome Perez would be his Chief Deputy. Jerome Perez is a community leader in Drew County and is well known for his leadership. Perez previously worked with the Monticello Police Department and coaches high school football. Perez has made a name for himself in Drew County and many were excited about the announcement that Nichols would appoint him if he won the election.
After the election, however, it didn’t take long for things to go downhill.
Reportedly, Jerome Perez was outspoken about some things that didn’t make Sheriff Nichols very happy. He spoke out about the inhumane conditions at the jail and the lack of further action on Marquis Martin’s case. Additionally, there are some screenshots circulating of a conversation allegedly between Tim Nichols and a state trooper. The screenshots discuss Perez in a racially-insensitive way. Because of this, many people in Drew County don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Perez was then fired.
Jerome Perez was terminated from his position at the Sheriff’s office for an unknown reason. In regards to his termination, he was granted a discrimination and grievance hearing on September 25, which the Drew County Quorum Court presided over. The quorum court members voted 6-3 that Perez did not meet his burden of proof and the discrimination case was denied. Jerome Perez continues to be a leader in his community and hasn’t let this stop him from pursuing public service. We are interested to see what he does next.
As for Sheriff Nichols, we will be watching his responses to allegations he terminated Perez for racist reasons. We will continue to call out bad actors, bad behavior, and corruption of power from the most local levels all the way to the top of our state government.