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JP BETH COGER'S WEEKLY COUNTY UPDATE 12/17/23

WASHINGTON COUNTY JUDGE PATRICK DEAKINS INTERFERS WITH LEGISLATOR’S RIGHT TO BRING LEGISLATION TO QUORUM COURT


Should the county judge be allowed to dictate what legislation can be considered by the quorum court? If he likes it, it goes on. If he doesn’t like, it doesn’t go on. Is that fair?)

  1. When I tried to add two ordinances at the beginning of the meeting last Tuesday, Deakins and JP Lisa Ecke shut me down (“point of order”) and, with the vote of the majority Republican JPs, I was not allowed to even speak as to the reasons I was bringing the ordinances forward. I had already asked and the judge had already refused to just place them on the agenda.

  2. Democracy is not doing well in Washington County. When the county judge refuses to allow a legislator (me or any JP) to bring legislation to the legislative body (quorum court), that is an abuse of power and a violation of the Separation of Powers Doctrine. Each branch of government has separate and independent powers - at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

 

So, Beth, what were your ordinances all about? I’m glad you asked.  The two proposals that the county judge and the Republican majority refused to allow the court to consider would have repealed two 2022 ordinances to fund jail expansion with ARPA funds (not an eligible use under federal rules). Remember, too, jail expansion was defeated soundly in the November 2022 general election.

 Ordinance 2022-123 appropriated $8.8M and 2022-124 funded $10M. Why? Because, under U. S. Treasury Rules & Regulations, construction of new correctional facilities as a response to an increase in the rate of crime and construction of new congregate facilities to decrease spread of COVID-19 in the facility are not eligible uses of ARPA money.


See for yourself here:



 


Why is it even important?  That same law gives the federal government authority to clawback misused funds, money that is spent on uses not allowed under the law.


There’s been zero public discussion as to what impact such a clawback would have on the county finances and the taxpayers of WC but it could lead to budge


t shortfalls, increased taxes, and cuts to essential services; and, just how we could possibly repay that money if required to do so?


Also, the 2020 Criminal Justice Assessment Study told us we will only cure our overincarceration problem if we address the root causes of our jail overcrowding: drug addiction, poverty, mental health issues, and that we must do that by implementing justice reforms such as pretrial services, drug addiction treatment, expanded drug and veterans courts, a sobering center, mental health court, hiring more public defenders and paying them on par with the prosecutors.


 

   WC Quorum Court Regular Monthly Meeting Thursday, 12/21/23 6:00 PM, WC Courthouse.  In person only.  Meetings are live-streamed on the County’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/washcoar

View the entire agenda.


   Lots of appropriation ordinances on the agenda. Here’s a short summary. See agenda (above) for full details:

  • $74,812 Parents and Children Together Grant

  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) grant FY2023. Read more about SCAAP: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TDckbPB8ZhVkkq0WbhW9zWo4DqQr1yGWmqy6dIIzQ1s/edit?usp=sharing

  • $9,000 Security Keypad for Historic Courthouse

  • $368,610.67 to Buildings & Grounds from insurance claims

  • $5,000 to HR Department for background checks

  • $15,650 Planning Department Budget for recently sold fixed assets at county auction

  • $593,764.55 Drug Court Grant Fund (1425 AG Opioid Grant) for 2024

  • $356,812.50 for items Road Department sold at county auction

  • $15,000 to Circuit Court Automation Fund to make up shortfall

  • $5,200.22 from University of Arkansas to Dept. Emergency Mgmt. Budget for 2023

  • $143,824.09 to Sheriff, Jail and Jail & Maintenance for law enforcement services for special events

  • Implementing Adjustments to Law Enforcement Step Pay Plan

 

We NEED Your Help!

  • ATTEND THE REGULAR QUORUM COURT MEETING THURSDAY EVENING 12/21/23 6:00 PM. Speak up during public comment time. Visit with the JPs and let them know you do not want your tax dollars spent on jail expansion. Instead you want us to pursue justice reforms: pretrial services; drug addiction treatment; expanded drug court and veterans courts; access to mental health care, more public defenders, better paid public defenders. Read the 2020 Criminal Justice Assessment Study here and learn more.

  • STILL NO PUBLIC ACTION TO APPOINT MEMBERS TO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE COORDINATING COMMITTEE. Continue to ask Judge Deakins to appoint members to the CJCC and to do so immediately and take necessary steps to see the CJCC is properly appointed and operational.  The CJCC wants to bring a pretrial services program to the quorum court for funding, but it must exist in order to do that or anything else. This is too important. If you haven’t called, please do so, or send email, or go by the courthouse and speak to the judge in person. His door is “always open…” that’s what he said during his campaign.

  • Contact your JP and set up a time to meet them for coffee or just to get together.  Become a regular voice in their ear and urge them to vote for criminal justice reform and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.  I write this each week, but it really is important.  That’s how I got started advocating to the court back in 2019.  THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.  CAN YOU TAKE AN HOUR OR TWO AND MEET WITH YOUR JP AND SHARE YOUR CONCERNS OR COMMENTS, OR WHATEVER YOUR THOUGHTS ARE.

  • Share this Newsletter with your friends and neighbors!

  • Write letters to the editor.  


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