The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 11, 2013

Jasper County to settle Henry County suit, then sue former sheriff over $50,000 payout

CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Jasper County Commission plans to pay part of an outstanding prisoner housing bill and sue former Sheriff Archie Dunn in an attempt to recover that money.

The proposal was outlined Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court. Though no resolution has been signed, commissioners in Jasper and Henry counties have agreed to settle their dispute for $50,000, according to Norman Rouse, attorney for Jasper County.

The agreement would result in the dismissal of the lawsuit by Henry County against Jasper County, and Henry County would assign its claim against Dunn to Jasper County, Rouse said.

Circuit Judge David Dally said he would rule on the action between the two counties after a signed settlement was filed. He also overruled a motion by Bill Fleischaker, attorney for the former sheriff, asking that the action against Dunn be dismissed.

Fleischaker had argued that the suit against Dunn should be dropped since he is no longer sheriff, and contended Randee Kaiser, the new sheriff who ousted Dunn, should be the defendant.

“The election is over; this lawsuit should end,” Fleischaker told the court.

He said the lawsuit originally was filed against Jasper County after the commission had refused to pay nearly $140,000 in prisoner boarding bills when Dunn had placed county prisoners in the Henry County Jail in Clinton.

A second count was filed later against Dunn and at Rouse’s urging, he said.

“It was politically motivated and my client deserves to be out of this case,” Fleischaker said. “He was acting in his official capacity.”

Rouse told the court that the county had refused to pay the prisoner boarding bills because there were no bids or written contract for the service.

Fleischaker cited state law that allows a sheriff, if the county jail is insufficient, to place prisoners in other jails and requires other counties to accept them. He said another law requires the county to pay for the prisoners, the same as if they were in the county jail. He agreed there were conflicts in the statues, but said the more specific statute is to be “controlling.”

“It places the obligation on Jasper County regardless of bids, or anything else,” he said. “The action was in his official capacity.”

Dally said he did not disagree with Fleischaker’s argument, but noted the action before the court involved a motion for dismissal, and not arguments for a judgment.

Rouse after the hearing said the county will pay Henry County the $50,000 sought in the settlement and then will try to recoup the payment from Dunn, as a private individual.

He rejected arguments the commission was pursuing political motivations in continuing the suit against Dunn.

“The commission told him over and over again they weren’t going to approve those bills, and he kept shipping prisoners out,” he said.

John Bartosh, presiding commissioner, was the only official, current or past, to attend the motions hearing. He, too, rejected that argument.

“He (Dunn) created the bill; he should be held responsible,” he said.

Bartosh also noted that no prisoners were housed elsewhere last year, when the commission allocated $300,000 in the budget for that purpose. He said there had been no significant change in prisoner numbers over the two years.

Dunn had cited problems with jail overcrowding for the action.

Commissioners had contended the prisoners were moved in retaliation, noting the action came soon after the commission disbanded a committee headed by Dunn that allocated grant funds from the Law Enforcement Sales Tax.

Commissioners, citing complaints from some law enforcement agencies, replaced the panel with their own appointments.

Dunn protested, saying the composition of the committee was part of the order that put the law enforcement sales tax on the ballot. He then sued the commission over that and other issues, including disputes over handling of the tax. That suit is still pending, though Rouse recently filed a motion seeking its dismissal. Included in the motion was a statement from Kaiser, who took office Jan. 1, saying he supports the dismissal and does not want to be a party to a lawsuit against the commission.

Other bills

The bill to Henry County was by far the largest accumulated by the county for housing prisoners. Rouse said the settlement does not affect charges from other counties, but that other counties had not sued for the money. He said bills from Taney County were the second largest, at $13,000, but officials there had refused a request to join Henry County in the lawsuit.


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