Tensions erupt at June Lawrence Quorum Court meeting

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. — Updated. It seemed for a few moments Monday night that the Lawrence County Quorum Court meeting might devolve into a fist fight.

Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman said County Treasurer Marilyn Crafton had taken almost $400,000 from his county road fund without authorization, placing it into the county general fund.

However, it was Justice of the Peace Nathan Crafton, husband of the treasurer, who took exception to Freeman saying that he probably assisted his wife in taking the money from the county judge’s fund.

“You’re getting on thin ice, son,” Crafton said to Freeman, pointing his finger. “Real thin. Hey, buddy.”

Freeman did not back down.

“You point your finger at me, you’re fixing to get it broke,” Freeman shot back.

Tensions were escalating to the point that several, including JP Alex Latham, seemed physically uncomfortable.

“It’ll take more of a man than you to do it,” Crafton responded.

JP Jim Jones attempted to settle the two down, before Crafton stood up and walked out of the meeting.

“We’re not going to get it settled like this,” Jones said.

Following the meeting, Mrs. Crafton told NEA Report Judge Freeman was “very confused.”

“He thinks that I took 300,000.00 out of his Road Fund, but I can show you an entry in his Road Fund where I transferred that amount of money from the General Fund into Road,” she wrote Monday night to NEA Report.

A consensus was not reached on the money Freeman said was missing from his road fund during the public meeting.

Economic Development

In other business, the court heard from Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp on new economic development taking place in the community. Snapp said Tuesday, June 14, a new fast food establishment would be announced which could bring as much as $1.2 million per year in business to the county and Walnut Ridge.

Snapp also mentioned a new business possibility in Portia and said another business was exploring opening a base in Walnut Ridge with a satellite office in Imboden, although he did not say what type of business it may be.

County Employee Pay

Quorum court members approved a 3 percent pay raise for all county officials, across the board. Some debate came up as to if elected officials should receive the raise and more discussion was also devoted to the topic of longevity pay.

Freeman said longevity pay should be a dead subject and told the group continuing to bring it up could result in them having to repay monies received from previous years through the program.

Freeman said it had been authorized by ordinance until 2008 and after, no authorization had ever been made. County officials continued receiving longevity pay until present day.

Shooting Range

Freeman told quorum members the new shooting range would be open to the public in a few days. There were still questions about the need for liability insurance, in the event of an accident or injury.

The full meeting is available to view on our NEA Report Facebook page.

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