City of Parkin/Cross County in lawsuit concerning jail fees

PARKIN/WYNNE, AR (KAIT) – Cross County Judge Jack Caubble told Region 8 News all nine quorum court justices have told him to proceed with a lawsuit against the city of Parkin. According to the original lawsuit obtained by Region 8 News, the county claims in the suit that city officials in Parkin have refused to pay $14,000 annually for prisoner housing. According to Caubble, the Cross County Quorum Court signed an ordinance in January, 1994 setting jail fees for all municipalities inside and outside the county.

According to the ordinance, Parkin would be required to pay $14,000 each year to use the Cross County Jail, as long as the city agreed. Parkin Mayor Charles Patterson said he could not find any evidence the city agreed to the ordinance. That same ordinance set a $45,500 fee for the city of Wynne and all other cities would be required to pay $35 each day an inmate is housed.

"There's nowhere on record. I have found discussion on the city council concerning it, but no motion to accept it or do anything with it," said Patterson. "I have searched the city records to try to find an ordinance or resolution accepting the county's resolution and have not been able to find it."

Patterson told Region 8 News Tuesday the city of Parkin couldn't afford $14,000 each year to pay the county. He cited other financial problems.

"About 60,000 behind on all the bills, current monthly bills. We owed the jail fees. Were not being paid and we owed numerous other bills," said Patterson. "Each month, what we were receiving in jail funds was being paid to the county, and when you're paying 1,000 dollars here every two or three months, there's no way for us to pay 14,000 with the resources that were coming in."

Caubble said the $14,000 fee was set in 1994 based on population and jail fees collected by the city on each ticket. He said he was willing to work with the city on a solution.

"If they didn't want to pay the 14,000, then we would be open to a per day. Charge them per day for each prisoner," said Caubble.

Caubble said he tried to set up a meeting with Patterson and Chief of Police Dean Davidson recently. He said Davidson couldn't make the meeting due to police work and Patterson didn't show up.

"This is a situation that I inherited and I'm trying to work through it in a diplomatic way," said Caubble.

Patterson provided records to Region 8 News, which indicate the city made payments until January of 2007. In July of 2002, the city made a payment of $13,999.92 for 2001's jail fee. After that payment, the city paid a few thousand dollars each month over the next five years.

"It shows what they paid in July of 2002. And that was for the year of 2001," said Patterson. "We need to end the situation. I want to resolve it as fast as possible."

Davidson said he found discrepancies with the amount of money the county charged the city; however, as of this report, those records have not been revealed.

"There are some instances where we paid for felonies 100 days, 60 days and all of those kinds o things, and they were taken in as a felony," said Patterson.

According to a motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit, Cross County claims Parkin owes at least $71,259 since refusing to pay.

"We questioned the county in 2007 to discontinue the 14,000 dollar flat rate. And go per day per person and we feel that we can manage who we take over there and what do to catch up on the back jail fee," said Patterson.

Patterson said then Judge Kenneth Witcher and former sheriff Ronnie Baldwin refused his offer. Patterson said he's tried working with current leaders in Cross County.

"According to the resources we had, I made Judge Caubble an offer. I said we got 29,000 we can give you, and we could squash this thing and set up another plan that we start paying you per day per prisoner," said Patterson.

Caubble said that offer was never officially made by Patterson. He said quorum court members have made a decision.

"Last night at our quorum court meeting, the whole quorum decided, this is all 9 justices, for me to call our law representation that we've got hired for this case and tell them to proceed with trying to get a hearing on this," said Caubble. "They're (Parkin residents) wanting to see the city of Parkin and Cross County work together. They want to see this settled in a sensible solution."

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.