A dispute involving Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn, the Jasper County Commissioners and Henry County over unpaid fees for boarding Jasper County jail inmates in Henry County is likely headed to court.
Dunn and his attorney, Bill Fleischaker, appealed to the commissioners to use money in the 2012 county budget for boarding prisoners outside the county to pay a 2011 bill from Henry County of approximately $139,000 for housing Jasper County prisoners, from May to September 2011, in Clinton.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Norman Rouse, who represents the county in the suit, spoke for the commissioners and rejected Dunn’s and Fleischaker’s request, sparking a tense discussion on Tuesday in the Jasper County Commissioners’ office.
Rouse said he doesn’t believe the county is liable for the bills from Henry County and smaller bills from other counties that housed prisoners for a much shorter period of time.
“The law is pretty clear that in order for the county to be liable, there has to be a written contract,” Rouse said. “With respect to boarding of the prisoners, I have yet to see a written contract. I’ve filed discovery with you requesting those documents and the best I’ve gotten is something in the emails that may or may not have been a written contract.
“With respect to the budget in 2011, no money was budgeted for the boarding of prisoners in the Sheriff’s budget.”
The commissioners, in the Sheriff’s 2012 budget, set aside $300,000 from the county’s general revenue fund for housing prisoners in jails outside the county.
Fleischaker argued that that money should be used to pay off a negotiated settlement with Henry County and the other counties that boarded prisoners.
“I then suggested, I’m satisfied we can negotiate all of the outstanding claims for boarding prisoners for $100,000 or less,” Fleischaker said Tuesday, reading from a letter he said he sent to Rouse two months ago.
“It seems to me that rather than waste any more time on litigation, the effort should be concentrating on trying to settle the claims,” Fleischaker continued. “Why don’t you propose to the commission that they authorize the LEST funds that were held out of the Sheriff’s budget to be used to settle those claims assuming we can negotiate a package deal to settle all the claims within that limit.”
Rouse said he’s still waiting for information and emails he had requested from Dunn and Henry County showing the discussion that went on when Dunn began shipping prisoners to Henry County.
He said if he had those emails to evaluate, he might change his recommendation to the commissioners, but as things stood on Tuesday, he was ready to take the dispute to court.
Page 2 of 2 - “Then let’s let the judge decide,” Rouse said. “Let’s let a court decide. That’s where we’re going, that’s my advice.”
In other business, the commissioners tabled a budget amendment, proposed by County Auditor Richard Webster to move money into some funds that will run short of cash by the end of the year.
Webster proposed shifting $66,239 from the county’s unallocated general revenue reserve to cover pay raises granted to county employees in September, utility bills at the Jasper County jail and Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage that had run higher than expected and other bills.
Associate Commissioner Darieus Adams moved to approve the amendment, then withdrew his motion after Dunn and Fleischaker objected, saying they had not had the chance to inspect the changes, especially changes to the Sheriff’s budget.