BATESVILLE, Ark. (KAIT) - An Independence County official seeking an answer from a circuit judge as to whether or not the city of Batesville is obligated to fund some salary and operational costs involving the Independence County District Court and if the court is not a court operated solely by the county.
According to records on Arkansas Court Connect, Independence County Judge Robert Griffin, through County Attorney Daniel R. Haney, filed the six-page complaint on behalf of Independence County against the city of Batesville and Mayor Rick Elumbaugh Jan. 10 in Independence County Circuit Court.
The Arkansas legislature created a full-time pilot program for the court in 2007 to handle misdemeanor cases in the county and in the city of Batesville, the complaint noted.
Griffin said in the complaint that state law is clear on the funding issue, especially salaries.
“Ark. Code Ann. 16-17-1101 et. seq. does not make a provision for the funding of any other salaries or operational expenses of a state pilot district court; however, an Attorney General’s opinion (Op. Att’y. Gen. 2014-077) has opined that 'there being no provisions of law concerning other salaries or operational expenses of state district court (other than that of the state district court), such salaries and expenses are to be paid, in my opinion, in the same manner, and by the same parties as those of local district courts (which is codified in Ark. Code Ann. 16-17-115," Griffin said in the complaint.
The county alleges that the city of Batesville made its last payment for funding district court in Jan. 2017.
“That after Jan. 2017, both the Independence County Judge and the district court judge of Independence County signed administrative orders directing that all fines, costs and fees generated by tickets from the Batesville Police Department be forfeited to help pay for the district court of Independence County,” Griffin said. “Since the administrative orders were signed, Batesville has surrendered all fines, costs, and fees to fund the Independence County to help pay for the district court of Independence County.”
Griffin said in the complaint that he believes the city is obligated to pay.
“There is no other authorization that would excuse the city of Batesville from funding the salaries of the state pilot district court judge, the chief clerk or the operational expenses of the district court,” the complaint alleges. “Simply stated, the city of Batesville, Arkansas is statutorily obligated to pay some portion toward salaries and operational costs of the district court of Independence County, Arkansas.”
Judge Griffin issued the following statement:
“The county filed a non-monetary procedural suit for declaratory judgment in a court of proper jurisdiction. Our attorneys have been unable to agree on the law of what the district court is, county only or a state pilot court as the law says.”
Mayor Elumbaugh issued the following statement:
“It’s unfortunate that the County has apparently chosen to file suit against the City of Batesville. The City has offered time and again for the City Council and the Quorum Court to meet together to work out our differences but those offers have fallen on deaf ears. I haven’t seen the lawsuit and won’t comment further on pending litigation.”
No court date has been set in the case.