Reluctantly, the Phillips County Quorum Court voted to pay a $5,050 judgment against former Phillips County Sheriff Ronnie White.
Union County Circuit Court Judge David Guthrie granted a judgment for Lorenzo Hicks against White for “having failed to serve a Writ of Execution duly entrusted to him as sheriff.” According to court documents, the motion was served on White on Dec. 29, 2011.
As of June 20, 2012, Union County Circuit Court had received no response whatsoever from White and Guthrie declared him in default.
The court said Hicks was entitled to a judgment in the amount of $5,000 plus costs expended in the amount $50 and interest at a rate of 10 percent per annum as long as the judgment remained unpaid.
In late December, County Attorney Chalk Mitchell offered a settlement of $2,500 to Hicks' attorney James K. Hatcher of the Lisle/Rutledge Law Firm of Springdale.
Hicks rejected the offer but agreed to accept the payment of the full $5,050 without any incurred interest.
In his letter to Mitchell, Hatcher informed the counselor that the county had failed to respond to a request under the state's Freedom of Information Act for documentation of all bank accounts presently maintained by the Phillips County Sheriff's Department.
Hatcher stated, “If the sheriff's department does not wish to pay the full amount of the judgment, I will advise Mr. Hicks to pursue legal action not only to collect the full amount, plus interest, but also to pursue action for the department's failure to comply with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.”
Several JPs expressed the opinion that paying the settlement was opening a whole new can of worms.
“I really don't know what else we can do,” stated Mitchell. “There is no paper trail. Judge Gentry was not aware of the judgment nor were any of the quorum court members.”
Newly elected Sheriff Neal Byrd stated that the Sheriff's Department was in the process of reorganizing including paperwork such as this judgment.
“We need to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” he said.