Ordinance fails vote; JPs adjourn

Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson (right) tries to move forward with a vote while Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklin Jr. (left) interjects with a supplement motion. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

The Jefferson County Quorum Court failed to pass the policy and procedure ordinance Monday evening, resulting in Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson adjourning the meeting at the advice of county attorney Terry Wynne.

Robinson called for a vote on the ordinance, which was the first agenda item, after several minutes of discussion mainly between himself and Justices of the Peace Lloyd Franklin and Alfred Carroll. The vote failed 7-5.

It took approximately 30 minutes after the meeting started to get to the vote because of disagreements about the minutes and amending the language for the policy and procedures.

Carroll did not like that the minutes stated the last meeting ended due to disagreements between the justices, so Robinson adjourned the meeting. Carroll said it needed to be corrected before approval and stated he would rather have it say the meeting was adjourned by the county judge because of personal reasons.

Robinson disagreed with that statement as Carroll made a motion for the minutes to be approved with a substituted motion that the meeting was adjourned due to confusion, which was seconded by Franklin. Robinson overruled it and moved on with the meeting; therefore no minutes were approved.

The meeting proceeded with reports from the committee chairs.

Carroll asked Wynne about making amendments into the agenda, a question which Wynne had previously instructed Carroll to email. Carroll admitted he did not submit his question in writing as requested by Wynne but expressed that if Wynne worked for the Quorum Court, he shouldn't tell him how to approach him.

"If attorney Wynne is our attorney, I think it's a little out of order for him to suggest to me what I should or must do to get an answer from him when I'm part of a team that supervises him," said Carroll.

Robinson said Wynne's recommendation has been the same for years, so he can make an appropriate response.

Wynne also clarified to Carroll that he works as an independent contractor for the county and not a county employee.

As the policy and procedures ordinance came up, Carroll pointed out that it must be read in its entirety on the first reading. Wynne in response said to suspend the rules and reading the ordinance by title only has been a practice that has been done for years.

The ordinance has yet to pass since January when it was first presented.

Kimberly Dale, an attorney who is representing Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods in his lawsuit against Robinson and was hired by Franklin to represent himself and any other justice of the peace, stood up and told the judge that the ordinance must be read in its entirety.

A vote was taken to continue with reading the ordinance by title only, which Carroll, Franklin and Reginald Johnson voted against. Reginald Adams was absent.

Also in attendance was Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter, whom Franklin requested over a month ago to be the legal counsel for the Quorum Court after a vote of no confidence was made by the majority of the Quorum Court members against Wynne.

"I've not been at these meetings lately and there have been things said about me about whether I was doing my duties," said Hunter. "My response has always been the county has a county attorney and it's not me."

Hunter said he understands the statutory obligation to represent the county that's in Arkansas law but that the statutory obligation is not there if there is a county attorney.

Hunter said Wynne, whom he has known for a very long time, is a very competent attorney and he is not trying to unseat Wynne or take on his role.

"Until he is not the county attorney or some other county attorney is hired, then I'm not," said Hunter, adding he is not failing to do his constitutional duties. "I just want the Quorum Court to know that I've been paying attention to what's been going on and in the event that there is not a county attorney then it's my obligation to represent this court and I will do so, but until that time I don't represent the county."

Moving into the policy and procedures for 2023 and 2024, Franklin made a motion to amend the language and replace it with the judicial committee copy which Franklin helped compose with nine other JPs before the committee was reconstructed with new members by Robinson. The judge denied Franklin's substitute motion, stating the replacement language was not before the court.

Robinson continued with the call to vote as Franklin talked over Robinson, calling for a point of order.

"You can not bypass a point of order," Frankin warned the judge.

Franklin directed his attention to Dale and said the judge needed to confer with his county attorney. "She is the representation of the Quorum Court," said Franklin, to which some members responded, "No, she isn't."

Franklin clarified his statement saying she is representing him and anyone else who needs representing.

"You and your representation can meet with my representation after this court," said Robinson, who was unsuccessful in trying to move forward with the agenda items.

Franklin told Robinson he could not overrule a motion.

Justice Patricia Royal said the rules had been in place for at least 25 years and asked why all of a sudden they were a problem. She also said though she had not seen the amendments she was told there are 14 additional pages.

"The supermajority of the quorum court came together to develop those rules," said Franklin.

Robinson addressed both Carroll and Franklin who continued to call out the judge for what they felt were discrepancies when it came to there not being an ordinance in place to show the county attorney was hired and not being able to bring the amended policy and procedure ordinance to the table.

"You have been on this court for a number of years and being on this court you better than anyone should know how we have conducted business," said Robinson to Carroll. "And all these years prior you had no problem."

Robinson also pointed out to Franklin that he too has been on the Quorum Court with the same policies and procedures.

Franklin said the change now is because, from a different point of view and impartial treatment toward other elected officials, the majority of the court wants the rules changed. Franklin insisted the amended copy be put on the agenda and said the agenda is being "held hostage."

"I'm an elected official and I can't even get anything on the agenda," said Franklin who wanted his attorney's opinion.

Robinson said in order for Franklin's request to get on the agenda, Franklin would need to send it through the proper committee, the Judicial Committee.

"No sir," replied Franklin. "You want to send it through judicial with seven members which you have the control of four members."

Robinson called for a vote for the passing of the original policy and procedures which failed. Voting against the ordinance Carroll, Lloyd Franklin, Reginald Johnson, Melanie Dumas, Brenda Bishop Gaddy, Margarite Williams and Reginald Jackson.

Dr. Conley Byrd, Danny Holcomb, Ted Harden, Roy Agee and Patricia Royal Johnson voted in favor of the ordinance.

Because the ordinance failed to pass and with no policy and procedures in place to continue the meeting, at the advice of Wynne, the county judge adjourned the meeting.

After the meeting, Robinson said county business will still continue under his authority with what he can do as county judge and through a court order.

Franklin said if the quorum would have remained, the justices as a body could have proceeded on with the meeting without Robinson.

According to Dale, Robinson is just the presiding officer and if the justices of the peace wanted to continue the meeting someone would need to be appointed as the presiding officer. Dale said the presiding officer would not lose a vote, but would not be able to enter into debate on any of the agenda items.

"As long as you have a clerk and you follow Robert's Rules of Order it will be recognized," said Dale to the JPs.

The meeting could not conclude because an inadequate amount of JPs did not stay in order to have a quorum.

  photo  Prosecuting attorney Kyle Hunter addresses the Quorum Court to let them know he is not the county attorney and that Terry Wynne is a very competent attorney. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)