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OPINION | Woods, Robinson ease feud, for now

by The Pine Bluff Commercial | September 22, 2022 at 2:51 a.m.

Headlines, recent and not-so-recent, tell a tale of county offices that haven't been able to get along. Maybe some of that situation is moderating a bit.

There was Sheriff Layfayette Woods Jr. saying he was so short on funds that he didn't have enough to keep the prisoners in the jail adequately fed. Instead, he was sending them to the commissary to find something to eat.

The sheriff's complaint is that the county judge, Gerald Robinson and justices of the peace trimmed back his budget so severely that he just doesn't have enough to make ends meet.

We can't help but remind readers that Woods is the same sheriff who looked the other way when one of his own was mistreating prisoners, so his concern for a lack of food, well, it rings a bit hollow in our book. It's worth noting that Robinson found fault with Woods over the issue.

Nevertheless, that was Woods' complaint.

On the money part, Robinson says Woods is a bad manager of it.

Woods has gone the additional step of suing Robinson and the justices of the peace over the financial matter. And the lawyer Woods hired to represent him successfully sued the judge and most of the JPs over a Freedom of Information Act violation in which the county officials didn't provide her with the county's budget information she was asking for – information she would likely then use to sue them more thoroughly.

During one meeting, it seemed the judge was going to break his gavel as he rapped this person and that as being out of order to discuss the funding matter because the subject was not part of the agenda. Whew! And we're picturing prisoners shoving quarters in a machine and eating pretzels for dinner.

Are you getting the sense that Woods and Robinson don't care for each other? That would seem fairly apparent, especially when Robinson chalked up the feud to politics and Woods said, well, yes, he would prefer a new county judge be elected, that being Dutch King, who is running for the seat he once held.

All that aside, the two men seemed to have reached some level of peace. In a later meeting, Robinson invited Woods to a meeting where they could calmly discuss the subject, and Woods' attorney got to tag along.

After some conversation, sans gavel, Robinson offered Woods a couple of different ways he could access money in his budget in his effort to keep his department afloat. From there, it was a more or less typical discussion between people looking for a common solution. The point was that they eventually put aside their differences, even in the short term, and found ways to keep the bills paid and the prisoners fed.

Reaching across to one's foe and finding common ground doesn't happen very often these days, especially if national politicians are a guide. But in local politics, sometimes working with the other side is unavoidable. For whatever reason, maybe they've worked this out, and if that's the case, they get credit for the effort.

Another person who gets credit is special Judge Bentley E. Storey, who ruled in Woods' favor in the FOIA lawsuit. Woods' attorney had asked for various documents from Robinson and the JPs, but they didn't provide the attorney with what she was asking for and some didn't adequately respond under the assumption that the county attorney would handle things.

Storey ruled that the county officials should have been more forthcoming, even if it was to say that they didn't have said documents. Too often, public officials, instead of working hard to be transparent, work hard to find any reason imaginable to avoid releasing information to the public. It's nice to see a judge support the public's right to know.

Print Headline: Woods, Robinson ease feud, for now


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