Former Olive Hill Mayor Danny Sparks pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of marijuana trafficking and having an open alcohol container in a motor vehicle.
Sparks made his first court appearance since his Nov. 28 arrest before Carter District Judge Rupert Wilhoit.
In a hearing lasting only a minute or so, Sparks’ attorney, Robin Webb, waived formal arraignment and entered the pleas on her client’s behalf.
When Wilhoit started to schedule a date for a preliminary hearing, Webb said it was client’s wish to waive that proceeding. Wilhoit then said the case would be bound over to a grand jury.
Sparks entered the courtroom with Webb just before the hearing began and left immediately after it was over. He didn’t speak during the hearing and didn’t make eye contact with anyone seated in the courtroom gallery as he was entering and leaving.
Sparks is charged with trafficking in marijuana within 1,000 yards of a school, which is a Class D felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The open-container charge is a misdemeanor.
Sparks was arrested after he allegedly sold marijuana to an undercover informant working for the FADE Drug Task Force. The transaction took place in a parking lot near Olive Hill Elementary School, police said.
FADE said the investigation leading to Sparks’ arrest had been ongoing for several weeks.
Following his arrest, Sparks wrote a resignation letter in which he said he’d made a bad mistake and failed the city of Olive Hill and its people. However, that letter was never submitted to the city council.
Sparks, who’d been mayor since 2000, did resign last week. His brief, hand-written letter of resignation didn’t mention his arrest. Instead, it cited “present circumstances” and said resignation would be best for the city, the council and his family.
The council appointed one of its members, Kenny Fankell, to serve the remainder of Sparks’ term, which expires in December 2014. The council still must appoint a replacement member for Fankell, and it isn't clear when that will take place. The council has a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, but nominating a new member isn't on the agenda for the session.