WASHINGTON COUNTY QUORUM COURT UPDATE
APRIL 23, 2022
By Beth Coger
The regular monthly meeting of the Washington County Quorum Court was last Thursday, April 21. You can watch the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh6ImLqpJfg I do hope you will watch it because words cannot describe the dysfunction and mean-spiritedness that occurred at this meeting.
After a lengthy discussion the court approved by a vote of 14-0 a new salary plan for the Washington County Road Department. JP District 9, Eva Madison, who is an employment law attorney, cautioned the court that they were being reckless in adopting a program that was not properly vetted and that could be illegal. The courtroom was packed with road department employees, a few of whom spoke in favor of the ordinance. JP Patrick Deakins made a motion (which passed at first, but was then withdrawn, voted on again, and failed) to stop paying Covid bonus payments to road department employees if this ordinance passed. After discussion among the court and county attorney/chief of staff Brian Lester, it was determined that doing so (removing the Covid bonus payments) would mean that road department employees would actually be making less.
JP Shawndra Washington introduced a resolution recognizing the following named area nonprofits for their work helping their communities during the pandemic:
Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese
Arkansas Immigrant Defense
The Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas
The Marshallese Education Initiative
RootED Northwest Arkansas
JP Washington’s introduction starts at 1:39:30 in the video link above.
These organizations went outside their mission to deliver food, help people get vaccines, provide transportation and housing assistance, get medical care, and in doing so, they saved lives. They were called upon to do this and they were able to do this because they are trusted in the community. They have lived and worked there and have built up trust with the people who live there. They are family, friends and neighbors.
However, after the resolution was introduced, JP Sean Simons, District 3, made a motion to postpone it, stating, “…I’m sure there’s a ton more organizations that should be included in this resolution and I would love to see them added so maybe we need to pump the brakes and see if we could get a comprehensive list together…”. Simons then made the motion to postpone, which ultimately passed.
JP Butch Pond also objected to the resolution because he had been told, “…about individuals suing the government in order to get some kind of political gain…”. (Note: Arkansas United does have a federal lawsuit, but it’s not against Washington County. It is against the Washington County Election Commission, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners and others and it alleges voter discrimination and voting rights violations. Pretty serious stuff.)
When a vote was taken, the court voted against honoring these nonprofits and their hard work. It was so disrespectful and it was hard to watch. Representatives from all these organizations were present during the meeting and sat through the entire 2.5 hour meeting. They came there expecting to be honored for their hard work but instead, the Republican majority shut them down, refused them a seat at the table, and refused to honor them for their hard work. That hard work saved lives.
Remember this is the same quorum court that passed a resolution honoring Dr. Robert Karas, the county jail doctor, who is accused of giving unsuspecting inmates horse dewormer as a Covid treatment. The county is being sued in that case and the county is also providing a legal defense for the doctor. The doctor is being investigated by the Arkansas Medical Board because he did not disclose to the patients that he was giving them horse dewormer.
However, immediately after that resolution failed, JP Simons and JP Bill Ussery introduced another resolution honoring child care providers and that representative (invited by JP Simons) was allowed to speak to the court about her work. If the court really wanted to do something meaningful for childcare, they would have used CARES Act and/or ARPA money to pay for high quality childcare for the community, but the Republican majority on the court have consistently refused to even discuss that.
If ever there was a time when we needed everybody to be involved and to be paying attention, this is it. We have excellent Democrats running for County Judge and JP seats. They need our support and not just money, though that is important, but they need you to make phone calls, help them knock on doors, and more. If you want to help, you can choose a candidate, adopt a candidate, and help us turn the Washington County Quorum Court into a legislative body that supports the community and cares about people. Help us turn the WC Quorum Court BLUE.
If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me: Beth Coger 479-355-1129; email@example.com; or my website: bethcoger.com