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County’s final plea denied in lawsuit

The Lonoke City Council was informed during its monthly meeting last week that the Lonoke County Quorum Court has been denied its final plea to appeal the City of Lonoke versus Lonoke County lawsuit.

After a two-year battle with Lonoke County, Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett said the Arkansas Supreme Court denied the appeal made by Lonoke County for a rehearing on Jan. 9.

“Hopefully we will be getting our money from the county,” Bennett said.

According to the legislative law change, effective Jan. 1, 2012, except as authorized otherwise, the county wherein a district court is held shall pay one half of the salaries of the district judge and each chief court clerk of any district court organized in the county. The quorum court in a county shall at its annual meeting make appropriation of a sum sufficient to pay the county’s proportion of the expenses of any such court. These payments shall be made out of the district court fund and general revenues of the county.

The Lonoke County Quorum Court approved the 2012 county budget during the Dec. 12, 2011, meeting by an 11-1 vote. With its interpretation of the a new law, the Quorum Court believed they were no longer required to make contributions to the district courts expenses. By its interpretation, the county has agreed to pay only half the judges, chief clerk and a secondary clerks salary.

The city believed the county’s interpretation was wrong because of a prior settlement made between Lonoke, Carlisle and Lonoke County. Previous agreements were made about salaries and expenditures of the district court after lawsuits were brought against Lonoke County by Lonoke and Carlisle in 1989 and the then again in 1999.

After the City of Lonoke won its original hearing in the Lonoke County Court system in November 2012, the county appealed the verdict to the court of appeals in January 2013. The suit was then handed over to the Arkansas Supreme Court in October 2013, where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Lonoke on November 2013. The county then chose to file a petition for a rehearing on Dec. 2, 2013 which was denied by on Jan. 9, 2014.

Now that all final appeals have been made, the city has requested payment of $103,060.53 for unpaid debt as well as the upcoming 2014 year salaries. This includes the 2013 operating expenses of $16,281.33, which the county is bill for in 2014; $43,748.62 for the judge and clerks salaries for 2014; $43,030.58 for outstanding invoices from 2011, 2012 and 2013 .

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