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JPs turn down policy and procedures again

by Eplunus Colvin | May 25, 2023 at 2:45 a.m.
Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklim Jr. (left) and Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson disagree during Tuesday's QUorum Court meeting over the Policy and Procedure Ordinance. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

To date, the Jefferson County Quorum Court has yet to pass the 2023-2024 Policy and Procedural Ordinance.

The measure that has been on the agenda since January was voted down by the justices of the peace on Tuesday.

Two procedural ordinances were considered by the Quorum Court's Human Resource Committee last Tuesday -- a 19-page amendment and a simplified three-page version. By vote, the simplified version passed onto the full court, where JPs Alfred Carroll, Reginald Adams, Reginald Johnson, Lloyd Franklin Jr., Margarette Williams, Melanie Dumas, Cedric Jackson, and Brenda Bishop Gaddy voted against it.

Patricia Royal Johnson, Roy Agee and Ted Harden voted for the ordinance and Danny Holcomb was absent.

Opinions resonated during Tuesday's meeting as frustrated JPs wanted their version of the policy and procedures drafted during Judicial Committee, which Franklin helped compose with nine other JPs before the committee was reconstructed with new members by Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson. Nine of those pages, however, reference state statutes to support the amendments.

The public also appeared to be frustrated, as one audience member addressed county attorney Terry Wynne during public comment asking what were the options for the community to recall seats when taxpayers have spent $60,000 on a Quorum Court for almost six months who have done absolutely nothing.

"Is it possible that we take these ordinances and draft a new ordinance that makes sense for all parties?" Adams asked Robinson. "We have not yet sat down and tried to work it out as a collective group. It's time for us to do that."

According to Robinson, there have been many opportunities and he has extended an invite numerous times with only a few JPs taking him up on his offer. Robinson said he even made concessions to the ordinance based on the concerns of the JPs who, in return, still voted against it.

"In doing so, the answers were still the same," said Robinson. "What appears is not a question whether our ordinance is good enough ... to me in my opinion, it's not a vote against the ordinance, it's a vote against the county judge -- against me."

According to Robinson, the proposed ordinance by the JPs was incorrectly formatted and included statements that the budget would not allow. In an opinion letter from Wynne to the justices after reviewing the policy and procedures, he said the document had many errors, incorrect statements of law and misquoted statutes. "What you are offering not only tries to establish rules and procedures but it tries to adopt subsidy law misstating Arkansas law," he said. "You can't do that."

Describing the ordinance as "confusing" and a document that "needs significant work," Wynne offered to sit down with the justices at a scheduled day and time to go over and revise the proposed ordinance.

Disagreeing with the attorney's opinion, Carroll said they used Miller County's policy and procedure ordinance and others to help draft theirs, as well as the county compliance guide, and pulled laws to address some of the problems of the Quorum Court to formulate the documents.

"At the end of the day, we have to come together," said Robinson. As the chief executive officer, there are certain things that have to go through the county judge, he added.

Franklin explained that the judge did not have the legal authority to put together a procedural ordinance because he was not a justice of the peace. He also said the JPs had voted 9-4 to send the judge's procedural ordinance back to the Judicial Committee in February to be revised and brought back to the full court. The ordinance never made it that far.

"Legislation goes through the Quorum Court," said Franklin. "It doesn't go through the county judge."

"The reason we won't pass it," continued Franklin, "is because the supermajority has been working hard for five months to get this on the agenda."

  photo  Justice of the Peace Alfred Carroll holds up the 19-page Policy and Procedure Ordinance with reference pages.(Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

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