A lawsuit filed by Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr., against County Judge Gerald Robinson and the Jefferson County Quorum Court has now been settled, with each side winning one and losing one.
Circuit Judge Gary Arnold, who was appointed to hear the case denied Woods’ petition for contempt against Robinson who was allegedly denying paying bills submitted by the sheriff’s office without justification or in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
In a separate order, Arnold granted summary judgement to Woods who contended that an ordinance approved by the Quorum Court in 2021 which adopted a “Job Requisition/Pre-Offer Form” was invalid and the judge agreed, writing that the ordinance was not properly adopted because the minutes from the 2021 meeting did not reflect that the justice of the peace waived the rules and read the ordinance three times on three different days.
Casey Castleberry, an attorney for Robinson said in an e-mail to Deltaplex News that “We are pleased with the court’s ruling denying the Sheriff’s claims. The Court recognized that the County Judge has a duty to ensure that all county funds are spent in accordance with the budget approved by the Quorum Court. Judge Robinson will continue to act as a responsible steward of the taxpayer’s money and require that all expenditures are made in strict compliance with the budget.”
A message seeking comment from Sheriff Woods was not immediately returned.
In a nearly three page finding of facts and conclusions of law, Arnold said since June 13, 2022, the sheriff’s office has submitted more than 2,000 claims for payment and Robinson denied 93 of them or an average of six per month. No other department in Jefferson County was subject to a similar inconsistent denial of claims.
Arnold went on to say that some of the denied claims were resubmitted and paid but it was not known how many of those 93 had been paid and how many were still outstanding.
Writing that Robinson’s actions in denying the claims was arbitrary and capricious, the judge told Robinson that the reasons for denying claims must be reasonable, fair and predictable and the basis for denying any claims must be clearly stated so that the sheriff can correct any deficiencies and avoid making the same errors in future claims.
Also, the sheriff and county judge, or their representatives should meet concerning any denied claims to ensure they are taken care of promptly.
Arnold said any failure to abide by his order could result in a finding of contempt and further legal action.