Northwest Arkansas' Best & Worst of 2012

Worst Role Model

Good behavior earned serial embezzler Jeri Pumphrey, also known as Jeri Freshwater and Jeri Qedan, an early release from state prison in July after serving one year of a 10-year sentence — with 30 years suspended — for stealing $60,000 from a Tontitown-based firm where she was once chief financial officer.

This is the second time Pumphrey has been released early for good behavior. She previously served only nine months of a 20-year sentence, with 18 years suspended, for stealing $74,000 from a Springdale employer.

She seems to function best in a highly structured environment.

 

Best Just Desserts

Kimberly O’Dell, the former Fayetteville CPA who pleaded guilty in 2011 to stealing more than $1.56 million from clients Tom and Monica Terminella and the University of Arkansas chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, was sentenced in February to nine years in federal prison.

“Greed got the best of her,” her attorney told U.S. District Judge Jimm Hendren before the sentence was pronounced.

O’Dell spent nearly two years on the run after failing to appear for trial in August 2009. She was finally arrested in June 2011 in New Orleans, where she was living and working under an assumed name.

 

Best Cool Idea

Local entrepreneurs joined forces to create The Iceberg, a coworking facility in downtown Fayetteville that lets freelancers and other independent professionals rent work space as needed.

Opened Feb. 1, The Iceberg’s amenities include office equipment, Wi-Fi, meeting space “and plenty of coffee,” proponent Josh Clemence said.

The Iceberg played host for three months this fall to the ARK Challenge “boot camp” competition for high-tech startups.

 

Best Company Name

In January, we reported on Cave Springs businessman Brett Hash’s purchase of a vacant building at the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 412 and Arkansas Highway 112 that housed the famed Mary Maestri’s restaurant for 63 years.

The building had sat empty since May 2010 when the state boarded up the place, the result of the restaurant being delinquent in paying thousands of sales tax dollars.

Hash made his land purchase through a company called PLBTP LLC.

PLBTP, Hash said, stands for “Please Lord Bless This Project.”

Hash had the building burned and the site cleared with plans to build a 30,000-SF retail center called Casalini Court.

Nearly a year later, there’s no sign that a shopping center is imminent.

 

(Second)-Worst Loss of the Year

Former Razorbacks football coach Bobby Petrino sold his Bridgewater Estates mansion in Fayetteville for $1.7 million in June.

That amount was $550,000 less than what Petrino and his wife, Becky, paid for the 8,741-SF estate in March 2008.

We’re sure a half-million-dollar loss would sting for anyone. Not nearly as much, however, as the sting from a loss to Louisiana-Monroe.

 

Worst Response to Questions During a Deposition

The book on Fayetteville attorney John Everett is that he’s one tough customer.

To wit: Former Rogers city treasurer Jerry Hudlow is suing the city and mayor Greg Hines for wrongful termination. The Rogers side has retained Everett’s services. When we shared that news with someone else in the legal community, “That’s not going to be good news for Jerry,” was the response.

In any case, Everett has a reputation for being tough. We found out how tough in July when he took a swing at Little Rock attorney Jim Penick.

The incident erupted in Everett’s Fayetteville office during a deposition tied to a long-running lawsuit. Penick said Everett would’ve landed a punch square in the face, but when he turned to avoid the blow, Everett’s fist landed on the side of his head.

“I guess he didn’t like the questions I was asking,” Penick said.

Everett pleaded no contest to the charge of third-degree battery in Fayetteville District Court. He received a suspended sentence and a fine.

 

Worst Personnel Decision

We’re still trying to figure out the logic behind this one.

On May 1, KFSM-TV said it was letting go of Mike Irwin, the dean of television sportscasters in the state, who had been covering the Arkansas Razorbacks at KFSM for 37 years.

Simply put, there is no one in the market who can match his perspective on the Hogs. And there’s hardly a thing the public clamors for more than Razorback information.

That’s why, not surprisingly, the 64-year-old Irwin was hired just a few weeks later by NBC affiliate KNWA-TV to complement its Razorback Nation product as a reporter.

Said Irwin shortly after starting at KNWA: “I was planning to retire at age 66. But I’m telling you right now, when I turn 66, if they want me to retire, they’re going to have to come in and pitch me out the door. I’m having too much fun.”

 

Best Problem-Solver

Sandy Trexler’s frustration with disorganized lingerie drawers spurred her creation of a nifty garment hanger called the Thong Thang. With help from financial partner John Taylor, who also contributed the catchy name, Trexler developed a prototype of the device. The Springdale-based health and fitness consultant received a patent for the Thong Thang in February, and is now marketing it online.

 

They Said It

“I’m pumped. It’s like they just showed my kid on ‘The Today Show.’”

 – Fayetteville attorney Hugh Jarratt, after his invention, The Taco Plate, was featured in a segment of the show on NBC in July.

 

“Some days I would get soaked through to my boxers in chicken goo.”

— Joey Rumsey, one of this year’s Fast 15, who spent summers as a teen working at the family business, Zero Mountain Inc.

 

“He was real top-heavy on testosterone.”

— Rogers architect Collins Haynes describing Gary Combs, the outspoken and often controversial developer who died in August.

 

“We’ll take it one game at a time and I’m not going to promise anything, but I will tell you I’m here because I want to give you something you’ve never had.”

 — New University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema, at his first news conference Dec. 4. He later clarified he was referring to a Southeastern Conference championship.

 

“I tell people I buy toilet paper and chicken domes.”

— Caroline Clarke, VP of realty procurement services for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., describing her job, which makes her responsible for securing GNFR (goods not for resale) products for every store in the chain.