Mayor: Justice Network lawsuit not justified, unfair

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Craighead County towns are involved in a lawsuit over the decision to do away with the Justice Network and some aren't happy.

The Justice Network is a probation program out of Memphis that provided a variety of probation services to Craighead County for 20 years.

According to the lawsuit filed in late June, the Justice Network claimed they have lost a lot of money.

This comes after newly-elected Judges Tommy Fowler and David Boling began an "Amnesty" program, which ended the Justice Network's operations in Craighead County.

The lawsuit claims the Amnesty Program forgives fees owed by the probation client to the Justice Network.

The Justice Network also alleges it continues to lose money through fees it should have received, and they claim the total amount of money lost is in the "hundreds of thousands, and continues to grow."

Along with both judges and the city of Jonesboro, the lawsuit also names the county's smaller towns, including Bay, Bono, Brookland, Cash, Caraway, Egypt, Lake City and Monette.

Region 8 News spoke with one of those small-town mayors on Wednesday who discussed his thoughts on the lawsuit.

Monette Mayor Jerry Qualls said it is unfair.

"We don't feel like it's justified at all because they don't have a written contract signed by anybody, anyone of our ten cities," Qualls said.

He said former Judge Keith Blackman set things up with the Justice Network and the cities followed the judge's advice.

"They would send people over here or do public service work and we would work them," he said.

Qualls said the city immediately requested coverage for Monette from the Arkansas Municipal League.

They recently paid thousands of dollars to secure representation for a case he believes the city shouldn't be linked to.

"It's $3,000 we didn't have in our budget and we didn't plan on using," Qualls said. "This is the first time that we've ever been sued for anything like that. We don't feel like it's justified. I hope it will be dropped when the see the legality of the thing."

Region 8 News spoke with Arkansas Municipal League Director of Legal Services, Mark Hayes, who said they will likely file a motion to dismiss.

"As of today, we believe the cities we represent had no say in engagement or disengagement of the Justice Network with regards to the District Court in Craighead County," Hayes said in an interview.

Hayes said John Wilkerson is the lead lawyer in this case. The Arkansas Municipal League is representing the towns of Bay, Bono, Brookland, Cash, Caraway, Egypt, Lake City and Monette

He also said Jonesboro, Craighead County and both judges are represented by other lawyers.

The following is The Justice Network's full complained filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas:

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