Monday, January 20, 2014

TOP STORY >> JP quits quorum court

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County District 7 JP Adam Sims turned in his resignation during the Thursday night quorum court meeting, saying that he was unable to effectively represent the people of the Furlow area who elected him.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin said after the meeting that the quorum court will declare a vacancy during the February meeting and supply Gov. Mike Beebe with a list of possible replacements, but the choice is the governor’s alone.

“Sometimes things happen that are beyond the control of anyone,” Sims read from a prepared statement. “This is one of those times. As we all know, I have not been well for over a year. I have missed many meetings and not been able to represent my district in the manner it needs to be represented.”

Sims was injured while working at a railroad shop in North Little Rock in November 2012. He’s had two surgeries so far to correct the damage that was done.

Sims, 45, was first elected in 1994 when he was 25 years old. He served two terms and was re-elected five years ago.

“There’s a lot more to this job when you’re in an unincorporated area than when you’re in the city,” Sims said during a later interview.

He counts among his successes a community park that he worked for as well as two day-long community gatherings.

Sims also successfully op-posed on the behalf of the people in his district a halfway house for women and the construction of a crematorium.

More recently, he has tried unsuccessfully to persuade the county judge to put more money toward beaver bounties to encourage year-round trapping.

“If I was well, I would have hung in there,” Sims said. “They come to you because they know you, and they expect you to get something done.”

But because of the pain and family responsibilities, his work in his district had suffered, Sims said, and it was better to resign.

“I wish you well and I wish your family well,” Erwin said when Sims finished reading Thursday night. Sims smiled in acknowledgement but told Erwin, “I’m still going to fight you on the beavers.”


In other business, quorum court members asked how much the county owes the cities of Lonoke and Carlisle.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has declined to reconsider its approval of a special circuit court judge’s ruling  that the county must pay half of all expenses of the district courts in those cities and not just half the salaries of the judge and one clerk.

Geoff Thompson, the county’s attorney, said he couldn’t answer the question because the amounts had not yet been determined.

County Clerk Larry Clarke, responding to their question, said the budget would have to be amended to add the expenditure.

Since January 2012 — when the county stopped paying half of all expenses, saying the state law had changed and all that was required was half of two salaries — Carlisle has not taken any county money to help run its court. So the county is holding about $58,000 for that city.

Lonoke has taken the offered half salaries but said in an appeal to the state Supreme Court that the county owed almost $28,000 a year for half of all other expenses as allowed by a court order in 1991.

City leaders were called to a meeting with Erwin in late November 2011 to discuss the payments the county makes to cities to help run district courts, where the county’s misdemeanor cases are heard.

Erwin said then that, because there were so many different agreements and some were not in writing, it was impossible to understand how the cities were reimbursed for hearing county cases.

But, he said then, the new law said the county only had to pay for half the salaries of the two top employees and the county intended to follow the law. At that time, the Cabot District Court expected to get more than $159,000 from the county, but that amount was cut to about $60,000.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert attended the Thursday quorum court meeting. When asked if he also intended to file suit or otherwise pursue a larger reimbursement for the Cabot District Court, the mayor said, “No comment.”