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Washington County Update - August 6, 2023

Here’s what happened last week:

Did you know? People living in JP District 4 have not had a QC representative since last March due to the untimely death of JP Fred Anderson. We declared the vacancy and under A.C.A. 14-14-1310 it’s the governor’s duty to appoint, but she hasn’t done so.

I FOIA’d her to find out what was going on and she refused to answer citing the documents I requested were “working papers.”

Did you know? Covid is back in our Washington County Detention Center? There were 42 cases as of last Monday evening and we had over 140 people sleeping on the floor.

When Covid first hit in March of 2020, Washington County stakeholders acted and within a matter of weeks the jail population was cut more than 50%. Our community was still safe. There was no crime wave. Our jail stayed around 350 to 400 until January of 2021 when the numbers started climbing. Now it’s around 800 and our detention center staff has 35 vacant positions.

We made it work before and we can make it work again, but we must do the work and make it a priority.

➦ Another WIN for the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (AFOIA)! My second AFOIA lawsuit against WC - after the county violated AFOIA again when a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee meeting on 2/7/23 was closed to the public. The judgment has now been filed.

Special Circuit Judge Mark Hewitt ruled in my favor that the CJCC committee meetings are open public meetings; the county violated AFOIA on 2/7/23 when it held a closed meeting of the CJCC (county attorney admitted this at trial); and that the meetings must be recorded, at least in an audio format. The court awarded me a judgment for attorney fees and costs in the amount of $5,445.00.

I want everyone to understand that while this lawsuit covered one count of an AFOIA violation, I did not just go out and file a lawsuit after one illegally held meeting. No. This has been going on for almost five years now that I have begged for access to public meetings held in WC and that the county answer my FOIA requests in a timeline manner or at all.

I am through with the begging.

➦ WC QC County Services Committee met Monday 7/31. You can watch the meeting here.

Resolution to support publication of ordinances, resolutions, and contracts, passes. It will be passed onto the full QC for approval.

- Back in January I brought the first ordinance of the year to the court and that was to require online publication of all ordinances, resolutions, and contracts. That ordinance failed to pass as several majority JPs claimed the ordinance wasn’t necessary, was unconstitutional; we can’t tell the county clerk what to do; she’s already doing it and we don’t need an ordinance.

- Fellow JP Kyle Lyons copied my efforts and brought a resolution to support publication of ordinances, resolutions, and contracts. He later changed it to just publication of ordinances and resolutions. He says it’s because we’re transparent, or want to be, but a resolution is not binding. An ordinance is binding. Anyone can say they’re transparent, but unless you put actions behind it, it means nothing.

An ordinance to change the catastrophic leave policy passed on to the full WC.

- I made a motion to postpone until next month to give county employees a chance to raise concerns or ask questions, but that motion failed.

The resolution by me to support funding for the NWA Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) passed unanimously.

- I’m generally not a fan of resolutions (see above) but I thought this might be a way to bring more awareness to the community about the crisis facing our crisis unit.

- During public comment time, JP Willie Leming spoke and suggested that we were likely going to lose state funding; that the state only intended to fund these mental health facilities temporarily, and if the people of WC want this to continue, there should be an election where the people vote to build and fund such a facility.

Upcoming Meetings & Events

HEARING ON OBJECTIONS TO WRIT OF EXECUTION filed by Washington County defendants in Elizabeth Coger v. Wood Etal Monday, August 7, 1:00 PM, 123 N. College Avenue (Public Defender Building) before Honorable William R. Wright. If you can attend this hearing, I’d appreciate it and it is open to the public.

This should be an interesting hearing on interpretation and application of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure. Here are some documents with more information if you’d like to study them yourself.

- Coger Judgment Case No. 1

- Washington County’s Objection to Writ of Execution

- Coger’s Response to Objection to Writ of Execution

WC QC FINANCE & BUDGET COMMITTEE meets Tuesday 8/8 @ 6 PM, WC Courthouse. IN PERSON ONLY. The meeting will be live streamed here.

The agenda includes several ordinances amending the 2023 budget, including Circuit Court VII, the JDC, the Prosecuting Attorney, Communications and Comptroller.

We will also start the budget review process for our 2024 budget, starting with the County Judge. Here are the worksheets we received to prepare for this meeting. This was the format provided by the county. They’re PDFs and difficult to read.

I believe these are the budgets we will review Tuesday evening. If you have questions, comments, concerns, anything about the budget, please contact me and I’ll try to get you information and answers.

We NEED Your Help!

  • Attend the Finance & Budget meeting Tuesday evening.

  • Call Judge Deakins, Sheriff Cantrell (he’s on the CJCC) and as many Justices of the Peace as you can. Get to know them. Meet them for coffee. Tell them you want a real pretrial services program in Washington County.

  • Mark your calendars now for Thursday, 8/17 @ 6 PM for the August Quorum Court meeting where the ARPA ordinance and the Lyons’ ordinance to do away with Planning Board appeals to the QC will both be on the agenda. We need to pack the courtroom for that meeting and be prepared to speak if you’re comfortable doing so. It does make a difference when we have community members in the audience.

STAY TUNED: I am working with Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition and former JP Eva Madison to host a “Mock Quorum Court” training event to acquaint community members with how meetings are conducted and how they can become informed and involved. No date has been set but hopefully sometime near the end of August.

I welcome your questions and comments, also suggestions you have for any county related business. You can reach me at or text or call 479-306-9994.

Here’s the link to email addresses and telephone numbers for JPs, County Judge, and others.

See you at the courthouse!

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