PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Back in September, we learned that Jefferson County adult and juvenile jails were running out of money and struggling to feed their inmates.
According to Sheriff Lafayette Woods, after a lawsuit was settled between the sheriff's department and the Jefferson County Judge, the jail would receive enough money that would until the end of the last year.
"One of our biggest ticket items within our lines within our budget is food," Woods said.
Now, with a new year comes a new budget— and Sheriff Woods is fearful both jails will run out of food by Monday, which could impact more than 300 inmates.
"We have over $150,000 worth of invoices between our Juvenile Center and our adult jail," Woods explained.
He added that County Judge Robinson continues to deny money claims which would pay the money owed to the jail's vendor, Sysco.
According to Woods, an agreement was made that the claims would be processed by the county judge if the sheriff's office could identify which budget the money would come from and if the money exists.
"You're trying to hold me to a standard and come up with different excuses as to why you're denying claims," Woods said.
Casey Castleberry, the attorney for Judge Robinson made the following statement to us:
“The law requires the County Judge to review all claims to ensure they comply with the budget approved by the Quorum Court. The County Judge has approved all claims properly submitted and has denied claims that were not properly submitted, as required by law. In every instance in which a claim was denied, the County Judge provided the Sheriff an explanation for the denial and invited the claim to be resubmitted to correct the deficiencies. The Sheriff did not cure any rejected claims. With respect to the outstanding balance owed by the Sheriff’s Department to Sysco, the County Judge has been in contact with Sysco and will see that its invoices to the Sheriff’s Department are paid out of the funds appropriated by the Quorum Court.”
Now Woods is, again, seeking legal action against Judge Robinson.
"We've heard that the billing addresses don't match from the bill to address ship to address," Woods said. "Every day is a different story as to why these claims are being denied."
His lawyer, Kimberly Dale is filing Petitions for Contempt.
Woods believes this is all personal and expects there to be more hurdles down the road.
"There'll be other claims, obviously, that are going to be continually coming in and we will go back to square one again, and he will have a decision at that point to either sign it or don't sign it, and we may be right back here again or in court," Woods said.
As of Friday afternoon, both parties told us that the claims are paid and there will be food for inmates beyond the weekend.
The Petition for Contempt filed by Woods's attorney still stands, because he said there are other claims that have been denied.