UPDATE: A Benton man was arrested Wednesday evening after an alleged altercation with Mayor Fred Kondritz in a local parking lot.
Albert L. Smith was booked into the Franklin County Jail shortly after 6 p.m Feb. 8 following the incident earlier that afternoon in the parking lot outside Fred's Super Dollar, located at 215 Bailey Lane.
Smith, who was booked on a charge of aggravated battery of a public official, was released later that evening. State's Attorney Evan Owens said Thursday afternoon that formal charges had not been filed against Smith, and he didn't expect them before the end of the day.
"The matter is still under investigation," Owens said.
Kondritz and Benton Police Chief Kyle Melvin did not respond to repeated calls for this story. Smith declined to comment when reached by the Evening News.
Kondritz wrote on Facebook Thursday morning that he had been the victim of a "malicious attack."
"As sad as this sounds I was maliciously attacked and punched in the face yesterday by Albert Smith in front of Fred's Dollar Store just because I am the Mayor of Benton," Kondritz alleged. "My wife Kaye was with me and saw the whole ugly mess which I am sorry she had to witness this. Hate attacks have become common and difficult to deal with. This ongoing problem has to be remedied."
Smith has been a regular critic of Kondritz and has written repeated letters to the editor of the Benton Evening News concerning the mayor.
One appeared in Wednesday morning's paper questioning the mayor's recent published account of crowd behavior at a recent high school basketball game. In a Jan. 25 letter, Kondritz praised the crowded gym as an example of "small-town America," contrasting the people in attendance with unruly rioters in cities across the country. Smith wrote Wednesday that the mayor ignored fans stealing signs from each other and an adult having to be removed from the floor. Smith inferred Benton lacks "good leaders."
A clearly angered Kondritz visited the Evening News office just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, several hours before the incident with Smith, questioning why the paper had printed Smith's "fabrication." Kondritz did not respond to repeated inquiries regarding what information was inaccurate before abruptly leaving.