County judge proposes jail turn away Batesville prisoners during heated quorum court meeting

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When the Independence County Quorum Court got down to hearing a district court report during Monday night’s meeting, the exchange between County Judge Robert Griffin and JPs, and the justices among themselves, became “heated” at times.

The judge informed the court that the city of Batesville stopped paying the 30 percent of the fines collected through district court. It was 30 percent of the fine money that the city received. It was considered the city’s fair share to help operate the district court.

White River Now’s Gary Bridgman spoke with Mayor Rick Elumbaugh Tuesday. The mayor told White River Now: “Don’t forget to tell folks that we do not receive anything from district court. Not one dollar. We give all of our share of district court fines to help operate the district court.”

Griffin said it is the same situation with the jail. He said Batesville has not been paying its fair share. Griffin’s proposed solution is to turn away prisoners from Batesville. The debate then heated up, led by JP Johnathan Abbott, who represents District 9, which is located in the Batesville city limits.

Griffin tried to call order to the court, saying, “This is why it is a problem to have a city employee on the quorum court.” Two justices, Anna King and Tammy Pearce, voiced their disdain for the remark. (Abbott said Tuesday that he spoke to Griffin about the remark after the meeting.)

Sheriff Shawn Stephens said he would not want to be held accountable if a Batesville prisoner, turned away due to the city not paying their share of jail fees, caused harm to someone or caused other problems.

Abbott said multiple times that the county and the city need to sit down together and figure things out, saying, “We need to come together, and we need to fix it.”

Elumbaugh said the city is ready to sit down at the table with the judge, quorum court members, and others to talk about the jail situation and things in general.

“We will be there to be fair and do our part,” said Elumbaugh. “We will be an equitable partner, and pay our share. We want all of our county to be vibrant and to have strong economic growth. We will sit down with our county leaders and work to that end.”

In other business, all ordinances passed but one. The ordinance 2019-05 pertaining to sick leave was sent back to committee for another amendment.

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