Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson’s efforts to reduce the county budget by eliminating positions is being challenged in court.
On Friday, attorneys for Circuit Clerk Lafayette Woods Sr. filed a lawsuit against Robinson alleging, among other things, that Robinson misled the Quorum Court. The suit said that the judge published a proposed ordinance that called for one position in Woods’ office to be eliminated, while the ordinance that was adopted eliminated three positions.
“Had Judge Robinson told the Clerk the truth, as well as published the truth, the Clerk would have appeared at the meeting and protested,” the lawsuit said. “But Judge Robinson intentionally deceived the Clerk in order to deprive the Clerk of his right to remonstrate.”
On Monday, Robinson said he was aware of the lawsuit, which has been passed on to the county attorney, and he would have no comment on it at this time.
Early this year, Robinson told elected officials that it was necessary for them to reduce the number of their employees because of budget shortfalls.
In May, the Quorum Court approved the revised budget by a 12-1 vote. Only Justice of the Peace Brenda Bishop-Gaddy voted no because she said she could not vote against any legislation that resulted in lost jobs.
The lawsuit said that before the meeting when the revised County General budget was adopted, Robinson “served as a conduit between elected officials to poll them,” which was a violation of the FOIA. (Freedom of Information Act).
It also contended that the proposed budget ordinance was read only once, and there was no motion to approve the attached budget documents to the ordinance.
“In fact, the meeting itself was a sham created by Judge Robinson,” Woods said in the lawsuit. “On one hand, at least 2/3rd of the Quorum Court thought Exhibit A (the actual budget) eliminated only one position in the Circuit Clerk’s Office because that’s what Judge Robinson told them. In reality, the ordinance eliminated three positions in the Circuit Clerk’s Office.”
Woods also contended in the lawsuit that “more than 2/3rd of the Quorum Court have told the Petitioner (Woods) they would not have voted for Exhibit A. Instead, the Quorum Court relied upon Judge Robinson’s fraudulent misrepresentations.”
He also contended that the revised budget does not give his office “sufficient funding to perform duties required of him by the Arkansas Constitution and Arkansas Law.”
Attorneys for Woods want Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis, who was assigned the case, to declare the revised budget null and void, to order the county to provide Woods’ office the money he needs to do his job, and to set a hearing on the matter within two to seven days after the suit was filed.
Woods is represented by Benton attorneys Luther Sutter and Lucien Gillham.