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Washington County Update - September 17, 2023

The WC QC claims to want to save taxpayer dollars, but is willing to allocate over $30,000 on outside council when our county attorneys are the highest paid in the state.


Let’s start from the beginning: WC has already spent over $10,000 on litigation expenses to employ outside attorneys to handle two Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (AFOIA) cases I have won against the county and the county attorney wants to spend $20,000 MORE for just the remainder of 2023.


Two separate circuit judges heard testimony and reviewed evidence and ruled that Washington County violated the AFOIA totaling $6,487.02. Now, the County Attorney, whose budget has grown 49% in the past five years, is asking for an additional $20,000 just for the remainder of 2023 for these two cases.


So, we, the taxpayers are paying $30,000 this year this year because the county has failed (refused?) to abide by the AFOIA. We need to continue to hold our elected representatives accountable on matters as important as transparency and access to public meetings.


How can you help? I’m calling all of my followers to write Brian Lester, our county attorney at blester@washingtoncountyar.gov and ask:


  1. “Mr. Lester, you represented the county in the second lawsuit Coger v. Deakins (the only one being appealed at this point), and I’ve been told that during that trial you admitted the county was wrong to close the CJCC meeting of 2/7/23 which is the subject of that lawsuit. What justification do you now have to spend more taxpayer dollars to appeal a case where you’ve already said (in a court of law to a circuit judge) that the county was at fault?”

  2. OR “Mr. Lester, you were not a party or a witness to the Coger v. Deakins case. Why aren’t you handling the appeal instead of paying $20K to outside attorneys to do that work?”


This is the proposed ordinance. It’ll be on the full QC agenda for this Thursday, 9/21/2023. You can read more about this situation here. You can watch the Finance & Budget meeting from last week here (the discussion starts at 18:22).


A few low points to highlight:

  • At minute 21:09 I ask how the county came to decide on which attorneys would receive the $20K to appeal the lawsuits. Lester replied, “at this point I think that's irrelevant. I'm not going to answer that question because the judge gets to enter into those…”

  • at minute 26:25 Mr. Lester said we had to hire outside attorneys because I made him a party to the lawsuit, yet when I tried to explain why it was necessary for him to be a party to the lawsuit - he would have been a witness in any event and could not have represented the county. JP Lisa Ecke called “point of order” and I was silenced and wasn’t allowed to speak about that.

  • Here’s who voted FOR spending the additional money. JP Dean was so excited to vote that he raised two hands. Big smiles on JP Lyons, Ecke and Dennis.

Just a friendly reminder: we pay Brian Lester $119,000 + excellent benefits and yet he can’t handle an appeal? What are we paying him for?


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Where we need YOU this week!


BID OPENING FOR CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT FOR THE “WC JAIL QUARANTINE ADDITION” Wednesday, 9/20 @ 9 AM, Fifth Floor Conference Room, WC Courthouse. This is not posted on the county calendar. Judge Deakins, Sheriff Cantrell and others are wanting to spend over $20MILLION of American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) money to expand the jail. This Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for bids was posted 9/5/2023. The deadline for bid submittal is 9/19/23 at 4:00 PM. Here’s what you need to know:


  1. Using ARPA money to construct new congregate facilities to decrease the spread of Covid-19 in the facility are “generally not allowable” under the ARPA regulations. See the Final Rule Overview here.

  2. There is a reference specifically to new jails and prisons, on Page 31 of the Overview.


Why is Washington County proceeding to spend over $20M of ARPA money on jail expansions. If the federal government decides we have used ARPA money inappropriately and in violation of the federal rules and regulations, we, the Washington County taxpayers, could be required to repay that money.


Every taxpayer in Washington County should be paying attention to this and asking their elected officials questions about compliance.



WASHINGTON COUNTY QUORUM COURT MEETING, Thursday, 9/21 @ 6:00 PM, WC Courthouse, Quorum Courtroom. IN PERSON ONLY. This meeting should be live streamed here. You can find the agenda here. Below are the agenda items we should pay attention to:

  1. Item 11. Ordinance to add $20K to county attorney budget for 2023 (see above).

  2. Item 12. An appeal hearing discussion on the Beaver Lake Tiny Homes Cup located at 18664 Saddle Shop WC 383, Springdale, Arkansas. Application is Jonathan McJunkins. The presentation presented at the 3/30/23 Planning Board meeting for this CUP is here starting on page 34. Need more background? Watch the Planning Board meeting here, starting at 32:57.

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We NEED Your Help!


  • ATTEND The Quorum Court meeting Thursday!

  • There is a 15-minute public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. There are 12-minute public comments before the vote on any ordinance or resolution. This is your chance to be heard, to address the court, to be more involved.

  • Call County Attorney Brian Lester 479-973-8415 or email blester@washingtoncountyar.gov and ask the questions about the lawsuits, and/or any other questions you have or more information you’d like to have.

  • Talk to Judge Deakins and ask him why he’s not interested in pursuing the data analyst and other assistance (coordinator) for the CJCC. The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has offered to assist the county in implementing pretrial services AT NO CHARGE TO THE COUNTY! We must take advantage of their knowledge and skill and we need a coordinator and data analyst in order to be successful.

  • 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.

  • Write letters to the editor.

  • Share this Newsletters with your friends and neighbors!


I welcome your questions and comments, also suggestions you have for any county related business. You can reach me at ejcoger@gmail.com 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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