Saturday, June 20, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XXVIII): Sheriff's office clerk charged with theft

There's lots of law-related news in the June 11, 2009, issue of the Newton County Times. I'll start with the front-page crime news.
  • NC Sheriff's Office Clerk was arrested for theft
The story reports that a 43-year-old woman who has worked as an administrative assistant, collecting money when people paid fines for criminal convictions, has been arrested for stealing about $3,000. After irregularities were noted in a cyclical February audit, the Arkansas State Police conducted a further audit which revealed the missing funds and alterations to hide the deficit.

In other stories, the headlines are:

  • Three JPs hired to clean ice damage
  • Newton County agent receives 'Presidential Award'
  • Reappraisal completed: 36 percent increase on agriculture vacant parcels
  • Two weekend fatalities
The first of these stories is perhaps the most interesting, as a vignette into rural politics. It reports that among four contractors paid to clean up after January's ice storm, three were members of the five-member Newton County Quorum Court; the fourth was a local tree service. Being a member of the Quorum Court, or a Justice of the Peace, is like being a county supervisor (the CA label); these are elected officials. Three of them were paid between $18.8K and $12.4K for storm clean up, from state and federal funds. This left me wondering whether a competitive bidding process awarded this work, but the story doesn't say. However, the newly elected county judge (chief administrative officer for the county) defends the process, stating "they had exactly the right equipment when we started looking for people to hire." The story also indicates that the payments are based on FEMA guidelines. Looks like a windfall to the local "good ole' boys" if you ask me. (This reminds me: I don't recall a woman ever serving on the Newton County Quorum Court. What's up with that? Certainly, women have held other county offices)

From the second headline, the "agent" who received the award is the county extension agent, through the University of Arkansas Dept. of Agriculture, who has worked with smallholder livestock farmers in Borneo in connection with Winrock International's John Ogonowski Farmer-to-Farmer program. I'm delighted that the county has such a competent and worldly extension agent.

As for the third headline, this indicates that local property taxes on undeveloped land are rising, in line with state norms. The county assessor is quoted, "Newton County has seen a 36 percent increase on just agriculture vacant parcels which does not have any market value assessed." I am unsure what the lack of "market value assessed" means, but it might mean there is no way to measure the market value of much of the county's agricultural land because its value has never been assessed for purposes of sale. Worst case scenario, I suppose, it means that there is no market for the land. But that would surprise me. See my earlier post here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Approximately 1 in 5 employees in Marion county are local, state or Federal employees...all wishing for a feather in the cap! But the worst is the UN hanging around the Buffalo River.