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Jefferson County faces tensions over declared state of emergency



Jefferson County, Arkansas – Tensions have risen sharply among leaders in Jefferson County following a recent declaration of a state of emergency by County Judge Gerald Robinson on September 6. The announcement came amidst concerns that the road department would face a shutdown. The core reason? Robinson indicated that funds earmarked for vehicles would have to be redirected to purchase fuel.

Judge Robinson elaborated on the financial constraints, stating, “The County Clerk cannot pay a bill if a line item is in the negative and you don’t have the appropriation.” This budgetary challenge extended beyond the road department, affecting other operational necessities like settling the county’s electrical bill.

However, the decision was met with skepticism from other officials. Jefferson County Justice of the Peace, Lloyd Franklin, expressed concerns, saying, “It’s not a miscommunication with the public, I would say it’s a one-sided narrative that’s being pointed to the public.”

Franklin, along with Quorum Court member Alfred Carroll, viewed the state of emergency as a manipulation tactic employed by Robinson. “It was to manipulate the emotions of the citizens to try to manipulate quorum court members into voting for legislation that he saw fit that he felt we were in disagreement with,” remarked Franklin.

Carroll echoed this sentiment, implying that Judge Robinson’s motive was to sway public opinion and influence Quorum Court members’ votes on matters they might not fully comprehend. He stated, “It was simply an attempt by the county judge… to influence quorum court members to vote for things they do not understand and lack the clarity to make good decisions.”

The heart of the disagreement seems to revolve around financial allocations. Robinson sought to reallocate $120,000 meant for vehicles to the fuel budget. Despite his assertion that this transfer was urgently required, Quorum Court members argued it wasn’t immediately necessary, pointing out that there was still over $300,000 available for use.

Digging deeper, the root cause of the contention appeared to trace back to a prior meeting. Franklin recounted how some members had walked out in disagreement: “We walked out on him because we wouldn’t address the agenda brought forth, he left the quorum courts items off of it, that’s when he created the whole narrative of a state of emergency to bring us back so that we would have to participate with his agenda.”

For his part, Robinson suggested that timely appropriations could prevent future states of emergencies, which Jefferson County has encountered several times.

The declared state of emergency has since been lifted. However, it has left a lasting imprint, with lingering controversy surrounding the county’s financial decisions and potential motivations behind certain actions. The episode underscores the importance of clear communication, transparency, and collaboration in managing county affairs effectively.

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