Judge Robert Griffin and the Independence County Quorum Court declared that the county’s lawsuit against the City of Batesville–filed on Friday, Jan. 10–is the “easiest way” to solve the disagreement over district court and jail fees.
County Attorney Daniel Haney explained there is “no money” involved in the suit. Rather, it is a declaratory judgment asking the court’s clarification on the state statute regarding the financial burden of local district courts which serve both the city and the county.
The suit’s outcome will allow the county to proceed in determining Batesville’s specific financial obligation to the district court and the jail.
The issue of who should fund district court is one that the City of Batesville and Independence County have been at odds over for years, with the county currently carrying the whole cost.
“District court and the jail have come up in the same conversation over and over again, and in order to figure out one, we have to figure out the other,” said Haney.
He said there is not a court opinion on a district court “solely run” by the county, so the County needs interpretation.
“Our position is that the district court is not [run solely by the county],” he added.
Griffin provided this statement regarding the suit earlier in the week:
“The suit asking for declaratory judgement in the Circuit Court, is an action to settle what the law says our District Court is, County only or a State Pilot District Court….How could 23 people [Batesville City Council and Quorum Court] decide what the law says when our two attorneys couldn’t come to an agreement?
“This same pathway to settle long standing issues will allow our two governing bodies to move forward in our new partnership with the City of Southside…we will have no reason to speak badly of one another…”
Upon Griffin’s request, the Court approved a motion authorizing county attorney Haney to file suit against the City of Batesville for additional matters that are currently in question as well — shooting sports and recycling.
Griffin explained that the County’s and City’s prior agreements regarding the city’s financial support of shooting sports and recycling were “not being followed.”
Justice of the Peace Jonathan Abbott said the motion was “jumping the gun” and that Batesville was upholding parts of these agreements. He voted against the motion.
Haney stated he would not file suits frivolously and would require approval of the Court.
Additional items at the January quorum court meeting:
1. The Court approved the district court’s and juvenile court’s plans for a 5 percent raise in 2020. The district court will increase ticket amounts, and the juvenile court will cut part-time hours and travel.
2. The Court motioned for County Sheriff Shawn Stephens to move forward with his application for a cop’s grant that would help the Sheriff’s Office replace two officer positions, contingent upon County Treasurer Bob Treadway finding funds to support the rest of the salaries not covered by the grant.
3. Treadway reported that all County funds finished the year in the black except for the Emergency 9-1-1 Fund. However, 9-1-1 surcharge fees of approximately $60,000 brought the fund into the black in January.
4. The Court reappointed David Thompson to the Independence County Library Board. It also appointed Kevin Rose and Brad Cheatham to the shooting range board.
5. The Court nominated and approved Abbott to serve as the Court’s delegate for the Quorum Court Association Meeting in April.